Resilience Is About How You Recharge Not How You Endure

I’m the Queen of suck it up. I can put my nose to the grindstone & buckle down with the best of them. Hours can pass without my noticing my shoulders are aching, my back is sore & I need to go to the bathroom. I work hard, really hard.  That’s why I need an image like the one on the wall beside my desk.


When I was a full time university student, I also worked full time (to get enough money for the former). I recall holding a meeting in the bathroom one time because deadlines were looming.


I started my business when my first kiddo was a baby. I recall with immense gratitude when the dual telephone ring was invented. I could tell by the ring tone if the caller was for my business or not & didn’t have to clench my stomach in knots when picking up the phone, scared it would be a business caller & my baby would be crying in the background.


I was born with a sense of urgency. I’ve always wanted to learn MORE, do MORE, reach out into this big beautiful world & experience MORE. Not surprisingly, until recently, I had an odd relationship with time- I always saw it as a commodity & one that there was never enough of.


This sense of urgency, of putting my nose to the grindstone & sucking it up has served me well. I put myself through university – I was the first one in my family to get a university degree let alone a Masters degree – & I’ve made a wonderful life rich with experiences in my adopted home of Kenya, while creating a business I love, serving clients that are working hard to effect social change.


And yet …


Last December, when I was doing planning for this year, I came up with 3 themes that I wanted to reflect on for the upcoming year. My relationship with time was one of them. I have a handy reminder by my desk & it’s been uber helpful in rolling over in my mind how I relate to time.



As I age, I realize there are benefits to breathers & breaks. It’s not lazy to kick back on my patio, to meditate, to draw, make a collage or even (Gasp! Confession time) watch my beloved reality TV shows or hit the dance floor. It’s rejuvenating.


I work hard at creating blank time – aka time where I don’t have to do anything or be anywhere. It’s a hard won habit as I still have to squelch the urge to fill my hard won blank time.


Turns out I’m not alone in my thinking. Research backs me up.


You don’t have to endure or suck it up. Rather recharging amps up your resilience.


When you hear the word resilience what do you think of?


The dictionary definition is “speedy recovery from problems” & “elasticity.”


Let’s focus on what it takes to have a resilient attitude in the first place.


  1. We have a problem Houston. Our attitude for starters. We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach to resilience and grit.” (Re)enter my notion of sucking it up. Put up, shut up, grit your teeth, bare down.


  1. Following close on the heels of our misplaced attitude is focusing on the wrong thing. It’s not so much our hectic schedule, it’s our lack of recovery time.


Why can’t we be tougher — more resilient and determined in our work – so we can accomplish all of the goals we set for ourselves? Based on our current research, we have come to realize that the problem is not our hectic schedule ….; the problem comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to be resilient, and the resulting impact of overworking.



  1. The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.  What gets in the way of recovery periods?


Lack of sleep

Juggling too many plates, that are too full & spinning too fast

Expectations of our self being higher than Mount Everest (seriously would you ever hold anyone else to your personal standards?)

And yes, the ‘continuous cognitive arousal from watching our phones’


  1. What do we mean by recovery period? The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.


Turns out it’s a bit of a mathematical equation. Try hard, stop, recover, rinse & repeat. And the more time you spend in the trying hard zone, the more time you need in the recovery zone. Why? Otherwise burnout can come knocking, & who wants to open that door?


  1. Taking time to celebrate. I do training for individual, team & organizational effectiveness in a variety of areas but one area I notice that teams & organizations consistently miss is celebrating. Check something off the list & it’s onto the next thing without taking a breath to pause, reflect, assess & celebrate.


In my experience working with clients in & from more than 80 countries, celebration helps build endurance & resilience & who doesn’t want that. When was the last time you celebrated for no reason?


  1. The link between resilience & humour. Years ago Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. used to give out awards fro the strategic use of humour in the workplace. (Strategic is key; no laughing at)  It was my favourite time of the year when the nominations came in.


There’s lots of brain science to back up why humour is so strategic but for now, simply know that your brain is on fire when it’s reacting to humour. As anyone who’s learned a second language knows, it’s really tough to decode humour in another language. Our brain is igniting the part of our brain that we use for strategic & innovative thinking when we’re decoding humour.


What’s more we learn to laugh before we learn to walk or talk. Laughter is universal. So go on, provoke, prompt & promote the strategic use of humour.



  1. Keep your head up & focus on your goal, your vision. For example here are Richard Branson’s 8 tips for living your best life.  Think of them as passwords to a life well lived. Check them out & rank them in terms of importance to you.


  1. Keep your head down. Take “Strategic stopping” breaks. Focus on the details, on “internal recovery.”


“Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted.


Here are some examples of internal recovery, strategic stopping breaks:

Meditate for 5 minutes



Take a look at the clouds in the sky- describe what they look like

Ask / answer a question – my oldest kiddo who’s now at university & I take turns asking & answering each other questions on Facebook messenger. Recent examples include: What does your hairstyle, including facial hair, say about you? What’s something I don’t know about your childhood?


  1. Take time for “external recovery breaks”


External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.”


Here’s some examples:

Take an online course (I’ve just started a drawing course on Creative Live & am loving it)

Read – check out these free books on kindle

Work towards social change – pick up a kid’s social change book & read to a little person in your life

Explore your community with new eyes. Check out a cultural celebration – here’s a picture of us attending the Hindu Holi celebration (festival of colours or love, where people throw powdered colours at each other with wild abandon).

Remember the old school paper fortune tellers? Grab a colleague or friend & play. Here’s one I’ve made for you to download.


So from the recovering Queen of suck it up, I bestow upon you, 9 strategies to build your resilience & they all have to do with how you recharge.

  • Examine your attitude & ditch the militaristic approach
  • Create recovery time
  • Incorporate humour & celebration
  • Keep your head up & focus on your vision
  • Keep your head down & focus on strategic stopping breaks both with internal & external recovery periods



Annnnnnnd take action:



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