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Resilience: An Olympic Lesson

As the world settles in to watch the excitement of the Summer Olympics in Rio, nationalism is a large part of the fun. The strength, flexibility, resilience, and endurance exhibited by the athletes is inspirational, but at their heart, the Olympics are not about country, but about human excellence.

Our fast-paced, demanding work environments do not require the same level of performance that you will see in an Olympian, but we can all learn from the years of work, the challenges overcome, and the spirit demonstrated by the athletes.

While we all need strength, flexibility, resilience, and endurance in order to achieve optimum performance in our fast-paced, demanding work environments, let’s focus on resilience for a moment – the ability to recover well when we encounter challenges – our business equivalent of the Olympic agony of defeat. Developing and demonstrating resilience is a differentiator that requires Emotional, Mental, and Physical Fitness:

Emotional Fitness: Emotions alert us to situations where action is needed and when managed well, are necessary and useful. Unease, worry and doubt drain our energy. Self-awareness, naming emotions, asking for advice and taking charge give us energy.

Mental Fitness: If the mind is filled with chatter, we use up valuable energy on unproductive thinking at the exact moment when we need to be clear and strategic. Training the mind to think well increases productivity. Resilient people expect setbacks and learn from each and every experience, both negative and positive. A resilient mind-set is a learning mind-set.

Physical Fitness: We are much more susceptible to worry and doubt if we don’t exercise. Exercise triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which aids the recovery and renewal circuitry. Guess what? This is exactly the same system that is used to enable us to recover from emotional and mental pressure.

In Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, she describes the drive for money and power as two legs of a three-legged stool – the third, our resilience, is the defining factor in leading a healthy, productive and meaningful life. Take this leg away and we fall over.

Keep an eye out for the early warning signs of low resilience: frequent colds, trouble sleeping, early waking, increased or erratic heartbeat, high blood pressure, low level anxiety, feeling regularly fatigued, going into over-drive, becoming obsessive about something, loss of temper, mood swings, and feeling unable to cope well with change. At the first sign of even one of these, it’s important to intensify the use of resilience techniques.

Don’t have any resilience techniques? Invest time in building your resilience toolkit. If you do nothing else, consider the following:

Nutrition: Respect your adrenal glands they are key to your resilience. Take good quality Vitamin B every day, and make sure you have enough Magnesium in your diet – your recovery system cannot function without it.

Breathing: Learn an effective breathing technique and use it regularly and habitually. Most of the population hold their breath when under pressure. This is the last thing you want to do – the link between good breathing practice and effective heart/brain function is well researched.

Reframing: Find a positive event re-framing technique that works for you. Practice it every day so that you get used to living in a learning mind-set and habitually taking the positives out of each situation.

Fitness: 20/30 minutes a day of mild exercise is a must. Don’t skimp on it, your emotional and mental fitness depends on it. Be smart; take the stairs; get your heart rate up regularly through physical activity for the sake of your emotional and mental resilience.

Networking: Nurture your network – our resilience comes from having a great network of colleagues, friends and family. We are social animals. We are neurologically programmed to function in groups and we literally can’t live without each other.

You may never compete in the Olympic games, but like the athletes, to build your resilience it’s important to build capacity on a daily basis – before resilience is necessary. Consistent, daily practice of simple Physical Intelligence techniques will prepare you to handle more pressure without sacrificing performance.


About Companies In Motion Transforming how organizations learn and engage, Companies In Motion (CIM) supports you and your organisation’s overall performance. Many organizations are moving away from the traditional Performance Management models to something more innovative and meaningful. In response to this change, Learning and Development teams are implementing Physical Intelligence programs that support performance across the curriculum: leadership, innovation, change management, team building, sales, negotiating, and more.

At CIM we are working with organizations globally that want to create a new performance dynamic. Join us. Improve your decision making capacity, even when there is uncertainty.

Contact CIM for more information on how Physical Intelligence can support performance across your company.

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