Research Highlight: Optimism is a super skill

95% of the most successful 10% of people scored “I think and communicate with optimism” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’ (in a sample of 21,000).

The human mind is Velcro for the negative. Based on a high threat environment, a negative and threatening explanation might have been advantageous. Today, pessimism disables you.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score optimism with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: How can I explain this adversity in one enabling sentence?

Condition: Notice but reject the easy negative self-talk

Discipline: Think and express yourself with positive language

Caution: Our times are testing. This will take courage.

What you can do right now?

  1. Ask someone close if you are optimistic or pessimistic. Explore an example
  2. Watch the content of your thoughts. Notice the words you choose to make sense of a situation. For example: “This always happens to me”
  3. Explore different ways to express the situation. For example: “What could I do differently” Notice the shift from blame to responsibility.
  4. Be alert for positive news.  Some suggest that we aim to express at least three positive observations for every complaint.

In the background:

  • Fatigue, isolation and distress will reduce optimism
  • Sleep well, be social, relax and play
  • Nurture your positive emotions – joy, gratitude, appreciation, hope, kindness

Note: With the current social instability, political malaise and climate risk, the value and importance of optimism will increase. It is well proven that optimism can be learned and has wide ranging personal and economic benefits. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is proven an effective solution to depression. We use the term situational agility to describe the healthy and adaptive use of the optimism in key situations.

Own your joy!



Research Highlight: Fulfilment is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 91% scored “I am contented, joyous and fulfilled” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Sadness (disappointment), fear (anxiety) and anger (frustration) are easy emotional traps to fall into. Far too many indulge in these destructive reactions. They will leave you in perpetual freeze, flight and fight states. This is deep suffering and ineffective.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score fulfilment with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is the constructive emotion for this moment?

Condition: Be intolerant of complaint, frustration and blame

Discipline: Actively seek positive emotional expression

Caution: When necessary, tell your truth with courage and empathy

What you can do right now?

  1. In every moment – even the darkest – there is a positive response. In sadness there is learning and growth. In fear there is courage and calm. In anger there is tolerance and altruism. Be assertive in searching and expressing the positive response.
  2. Complaint spreads discomfort. Reject it. Frustration disables you. Reject it. Blame steals your power. Reject it. Respect, experience and name these negative reactions. They are real. Use the signal to say “NO”. Seek the positive angle.
  3. Learn to strengthen your positive emotions. If sad, seek the lesson learned. Be grateful. If afraid, seek calm presence. Be content. If angry, seek kindness. Be compassionate. If fatigued, seek energy. Be resilient.

Positive emotions are like muscles. If you work on them, they will get stronger. Even the toughest moments can be fulfilling. Enjoy your discomfort. Appreciate the moment. Strengthen your joy.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Work on connection with those who matter to you
Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Originally published in Programme Octave on October 17th 2019

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Today’s world scene urges us all to accelerate change in the global economy and the society at large: economic growth is too slow, social inequality is too high and the Earth is suffocating. While no one can claim having the magic bullet for global challenges, one thing is clear: we need to transform the way we live, the way we work, the way we lead… we actually need to transform ourselves and be resilient!

“Let him who would move the world first move himself” Socrates

As is often stated by Bertrand Piccard, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, solutions do exist to address global challenges in a realistic way. What is missing is the will to activate these solutions fast enough. Beyond, processes and ideas, individuals are the stoppers or enablers of transformation. As politics tend to favour short-term views, the private sector may well be a powerful lever to accelerate changes on a large scale. The recent launch of the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) by the OECD is encouraging: a coalition of 34 leading international companies – employing 3,5 million people around the globe – with a commitment to step upbusiness action to honour human rights throughout their value chains, build inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in the economic ecosystems. An increasing number of CEOs and executives are ready to play their part and – as suggested by the growth of the B Corp movement – with approximately 3000 certified companies in the world – they aim to use business as a force for good.

This is a fascinating time and here is our opportunity: contribute, as a leader, to accelerate the transformation within our organisations leading to higher level of consciousness of all stakeholders and favour the emergence of a new paradigm. Proposing a strategic vision that is economically viable and socially responsible. That requires resilience! No doubt today’s leaders face challenges that require a different set of skills and a shift in attitudes. In his recent book “21 questions for the 21st century”, Yuval Noah Harari suggests that, in view of the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the best bet we can make today to be “future-fit” is to build our resilience. At the Resilience Institute, we do view Resilience as a learned ability to demonstrate the capacity to bounce back but also to grow from challenges, to care for others and nature, to develop talents and opportunities. Mobilising all of our resources – body, heart, mind and spirit – we are much better equipped to embrace transformation and inspire others on that path. It is about expanding the concept of sustainability to include the self: when you are more self-aware and committed to manage your personal resources properly, you are aligned; you develop a more integral view about others and become more conscious about the impact of your behaviours on the world.

Here are 10 best practices to strengthen resilience and prepare a solid ground for successful transformation.

Cultivating resilience leads to personal alignment and supports organizational “readiness” to embrace transformation with confidence. How is a culture of resilience created? Culture is shaped essentially by the behaviours of leaders. Leaders need to manifest the behaviours they want to diffuse in their organization.

Create calm and rejuvenate. Top athletes know well that a condition for high performance is regular, quick and effective, rejuvenation. This is a physiological condition for reaching high goals, sustainably. Likewise, leaders need to consider simple ways to integrate rejuvenation in a busy agenda.

  1. Take regular micro-breaks.
  2. Start a meeting by taking 3 deep and conscious breaths.

Cultivate physical energy. Transformation requires perseverance and energy. Next to regular exercise and healthy nutrition, restorative sleep is essential. As quoted by Matthew Walker in his book “Why we sleep” (2017): Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting.

  1. Avoid electronic screens before bedtime as they keep your mind alert. An hour on screen postpones the release of melatonin (the “sleep inducer” hormone) by 3 hours which at its peak will then be 50% lower. It therefore affects easiness to fall asleep and quality of sleep.
  2. Enjoy a 10-minute stretch when you wake-up.
  3. Consider walking or standing meetings.

Engage emotions. Positive psychology confirms that positive emotions have a signature that favours calm, energy, focus, creativity and engagement. Unfortunately, physiologically, humans tend to be negatively wired. It therefore requires a proactive effort to stimulate positive emotions in a team.

  1. Celebrate success or, at least, milestones to success.
  2. Demonstrate appreciation and provide constructive feedback (positive or progressive).

Train the mind and focus. As stated in the 2018 Global Resilience Report (The Resilience Institute, 2018), the ability to focus is the common thread between the most resilient people. While information overload puts us at risk of “infobesity”, controlling attention requires serious self- discipline.

  1. Switch off your emails one hour a day to focus fully on a task.
  2. Be more selective in the information you consume and produce.

Put your spirit in action. Ethics and value have never been more relevant. The young generation wants to work for companies that take a stand on the global challenges. According to a study by Korn Ferry (Korn Ferry & Hay Group, Executive survey 2016), companies focusing their employees on the organization’s purpose tripled annual growth rates versus the average in their sector. Having an authentic purpose can also help recruit and retain talents, attract consumers, and have a positive impact on the broader society.

  1. Be clear and loud about the purpose of the transformation. Share the “why” and articulate clearly an appealing long-term vision.

When shared and modelled in an organization, these practices foster a culture of resilience that can be a springboard to accelerate transformation. It gets to the heart of what may well enable us to thrive in the future: the idea that each business should be totally human and create societal value.

“Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain” (Swedish proverb).

Originally from Belgium, Alexia Michiels is the co-founder of The Resilience Institute Europe.After gaining a degree in commercial and consular Sciences, she works 10 years in marketing and media (Procter & Gamble, RTL Bertelsmann, World Federation of Advertisers). She then lives 5 years in China where she meets Dr Sven Hansen, founder ofThe Resilience Institute. She understands that resilience needs to be cultivated on a daily basis mobilising all our resources : body, heart, mind and spirit. She accompanies, in many countries, leaders and teams to face, with joy and success, the challenges of a world in transformation. Alexia is the author of the book « L’Elan de la Résilience » / « The Resilience Drive » (FAVRE, 2017).



Research Highlight: purpose is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 96% scored “my purpose in life is clear and meaningful” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is my purpose? Describe with clarity and meaning

Condition: Step back, up and take a wide view of what matters

Discipline: Connect and leverage all you do to your purpose

Caution: Keep a sense of humour, laugh and play

If you cannot define and describe what matters to you, you leave yourself exposed to distraction, seduction and procrastination. You will become a victim to the purpose of others. Your success will be compromised.

Only 6% of the least resilient people score purpose with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’. Poorly defined purpose leads to suffering.

What you can do right now?

  1. Your life is rich and diverse. There is no right or perfect purpose. Each of us must seek to define what really matters. Consider the times that you felt your life or activity was optimally on track. Joy and engagement are the signals to seek. Imagine your life with more of these times. What purpose would you be serving?
  2. It is essential to step back and remove the daily busyness and distraction. Find a perspective where you can take a wide view of life. What work needs to be done. Where are your particular skills best deployed? How do you want to feel? Who do you want to contribute to? What would you most love to achieve? Right down what this purpose would look like in action.
  3. Be courageous and look for ways to reduce those parts of your day that are not on purpose. Where could you increase the amount of time that would be spent on your purpose. Do what is not on purpose in the aim of getting back on purpose. Share your written purpose with others. Seek helpful feedback. Ask for help.
  4. Being on purpose all the time can be boring, overwhelming or intimidating to others. Don’t be too serious. Welcome failure and learn. Laugh when you go off track. Forgive yourself and make time to play. Seek nature and creative expression.

Building purpose takes time, experimentation and setbacks. The more accurately you can describe your purpose the more you will access your motivation and intuitive decision-making.





Research Highlight: Focus is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 94% scored “my mind is clear and focused” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What meaningful activity will I complete today?

Condition: Clear your mind of distraction and clutter

Discipline: Hold intense, steady and sharp attention on task

Caution: Take regular breaks to rejuvenate and keep perspective

Distraction, uncertainty and self-doubt rule. Every day, thousands of interruptions, concerns and risks will present. For those who do not understand, train and continually improve focus, it is a very dangerous time indeed.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score focus with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’. Lack of focus leads to suffering.

What you can do right now?

  1. Select a meaningful task each day of the week. Start with making your bed or eating well. Once you have your basic daily routines sorted, then shift to one meaningful work or career goal. For example: today I will complete my new CV. Rest at least one day of the weekend – no important task.
  2. Clear your mind. Focus is impossible when lost in floodwaters of distraction. One by one, clear it away. Select your focus window during which your phone, e-mail, music, food and drink options are not available. Be comfortable but alert. Relax your awareness into the moment. Allow all frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, disappointment and sadness to drop away. Detach your mind from thoughts that arise and gently return to the present moment.
  3. Build intense focus. Select the focus required for the immediate task in front of you. Direct your attention fully at this task. Zoom in so that you can see the detail in fine granularity. Keep the beam of attention firmly on the current execution of your skills. Learn to recognise when focus fades, take a break and refocus.

Building powerful focus will take time and practice. Select achievable goals and define your time periods carefully. Pay attention to what works.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
Libramont Regenerative Alliance : Messages from the Woods

Libramont Regenerative Alliance : Messages from the Woods

Libramont Regenerative Alliance : Messages from the Woods

The Resilience Institute Europe had the honour to participate in a unique event reuniting more than 100 business leaders, philosophers, scientists and experts in the woods of Bertrix in Belgium.

Surrounded by a beautiful and old forest, we brainstormed and exchanged ideas to rethink our economic and entrepreneurial model and move towards a regenerative economy. We were all truly inspired by speakers among which Nicolas Hulot, Frédéric Lenoir, Bertrand Piccard, Gauthier Chapelle and other experts, and by leaders of large and small companies showing us that change is possible. It led to very rich dialogues and insights. I personally went home with 5 main messages.

1-The need for change is super urgent.

We all know that climate change is an undeniable threat to the planet. Even though we know this, the facts, trends and evolutions as exposed by the experts were truly chocking. We need to hear these messages much more. Yes, Greta, we need to panic!

2-Communication does matter.

While panic and fear are good to wake us up, we need to find inspiring and positive ways to communicate, uniting everyone behind this project. People will only take actions if they are touched in the heart, if they feel inspired and guided by a purpose. We need leaders, in all areas of society, who can guide us and inspire us, even if the path is not clear and no one has “the” solution. Events like Regenerative Alliance, initiatives as Sign for my future, organizations as B-Corp are very hopeful signals. We need more of those initiatives and courageous people who are willing to stand up and take the lead.

3-Nature can inspire solutions

Biomimicry seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. As an example, in the late 90’s Japanese engineers modeled a bullet train after a kingfisher, to solve the loud booming sound when the train was exiting typical train tunnels. Janine Benuys said: “When we look at what is truly sustainable, the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world.” We do have huge room for improvement in that area, reconnecting ourselves much more systematically with Nature as a source of inspiration for seeking new solutions. We need to change our mindset, become humbler and understand that every species, including humans has a reason for fitting in this world. Isn’t it time that we open up, go beyond analytical thinking and trust our intuitive brain much more? 

4-Start with Self

“Be the change that you want to see in the world”. The challenge that we face is so big that we cannot solve it using the same old paradigm as the one that brought us to this urgency state. We need to enable all of our dimensions – body, heart, mind and spirit – to be ready. This is at the very core of our work at The Resilience Institute Europe. After these two days, I am even more convinced that resilience is an accelerator for the change that we seek. Science shows us that we can all learn the skills to become resilient; it requires reflection, awareness and daily practice. Personal transformation will facilitate collective transformation. As the Dalai Lama stated in a funny way: “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”. 

5-Politicians, Scientists, Entrepreneurs, Business leaders: unite!

Building on personal transformation, collective transformation will emerge faster. This requires all actors in society to collaborate and roll up their sleeves together.

The Regenerative Alliance was the best proof that that once you bring people together, it broadens the mind and opens the heart. It is of course easier to do this with people who are already convinced. Convincing the rest of the population is an enormous and complex challenge, with many consequences for all. How to do this without social chaos? Innovative and courageous leaders might well show us a path… 


Article by : Katrien Audenaert, Partner The Resilience Institute Europe