There’s a lot we can learn about resilience from this world-famous explorer.
No matter who you are or where you are in the world, the last few months have been particularly challenging. And while we’ve all struggled, those of us with one quality may have universally coped better than others. That quality is resilience.
Resilience, otherwise known as the ability to recover quickly from challenges, has long been lauded as an essential quality at work and in life, and now, it’s more important than ever. But as important as resilience is, it’s also known to be hard to foster, with experts saying that a lot of it comes down to whether we’ve faced challenging circumstances before, and expressly learnt how to cope.
One person who is incredibly experienced with all things resilience is George Bullard, so we decided to get his expert insights. George is a world-recording breaking explorer who is on a mission to rewild humans. He’s completed some truly incredible feats, including breaking the world record for an unsupported arctic journey (he spent 113 days in the Arctic when he was just 19), and crossing the ferocious North Atlantic ocean on a kayak (which he completed in 66 days) to unearth an ancient myth about the inuits.
Here’s what George had to say about how we can all be that bit more resilient:
1. Don’t self pity; ask for help
Currently, there’s memes circling on social media that implore us to be ‘our most productive ever.’ But as we watch the horrors of the current pandemic unfold before our very eyes, we all know that it can be quite hard to be productive – or even, to be our best selves.
But if you’re going to be more resilient, George says, at some point you do need to move beyond feelings of uncertainty and self-pity, and endeavour to get on with the task at hand. Communicating your feelings can help though, George, says, and we should always endeavour to do so.
George had some incredibly low points on his expeditions, but when he was at the height of his self-pity, he also had an important epiphany:
‘One of my expeditions was 53 back-to-back marathons, hauling everything we needed to survive a 2,211km journey. On the 53rd day of not seeing another human except for my team mate, I remember wishing I wasn’t there.’
‘I questioned what I was doing, why I even wanted to break the record. That morning I cried helplessly.’
‘But it didn’t help. Nobody came to my rescue. So when I had run out of tears, I stopped crying.’
2. Keep trying – and never give up
When we’re in stressful situations, our brains can sometimes tell us to effectively ‘give up and go home’ – or to stop trying. But if George has learnt anything throughout his expeditions, it’s that we need to fight the urge to give, and keep going. Resilience, he believes, is an attitude that defies what your brain is instinctively telling you – and for good reason.
Later on his arctic expedition, George experienced a true life or death situation. Amazingly, on day 104, he ran out of food:
‘The expedition had already been relentless – and then we ran out of food. We survived the last 9 days of the expedition eating small fat balls made of butter and oats.’
‘Words can’t really describe how it felt to run out of food on day 104, while living on ice, in a tent, and pulling your entire life on a sledge. I remember thinking “is this how I am going to die?”’
George’s experience, though, did teach him something important about how our brains operate:
‘[That experience] made me realise that humans are a remarkable species. We have this incredibly powerful brain, and it can make us feel and think things. Those feelings can impact our ability to endure.’
‘Our brains sometimes tell us to “give up” long before our bodies are actually tired.’
3. Focus on the journey, not the destination
By now, many of us have realised that unfortunately, this coronavirus crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing this, we need to prepare ourselves to be resilient for the long-term – but how?
George believes that the best way to ensure long periods of hardship is to change our focus. Specifically:
‘Avoid thinking about the destination. Instead, focus on the journey. Over the course of the pandemic, we will wish dream of the good days that will seem like an ice age ago, and wish that this isolation will end tomorrow.’
‘It won’t. Accept that you can’t control everything and enjoy each day for what it has to offer.’
Like on his expeditions, George thinks it’s important to focus on the basics … and remember to be grateful for them:
‘Covid-19 reminds us of what is really essential for survival. On my expeditions I prioritised the same things – food, water and warmth. Now we have the opportunity to be grateful for these things.’
4. Remain flexible
Throughout this crisis, we’ll all invariably have our good and bad days, with some a whole lot worse than others. But in order to be truly resilient, says George, we have to master the ‘bounceback’ – how quickly we rebound after setbacks. He believes that the key to doing so is by doing a few critical things:
‘There are so many unknowns in the current crisis, so the best way to handle this – and many other challenging situations – is to remain flexible, versatile and adaptable. That way, you’re prepared to face the setbacks which inevitably will come.’
Do you have any other tips for becoming more resilient in these challenging times? Share them with us in the comments section below.
How can you develop your own resilience, achieve self-mastery and successfully manage your personal energy? We take a look in this year’s Career Bootcamp as we encourage you all to ‘Power Your Mind’. Register here.