Just keep swimming – By Sara Cameron

In 2016, I wrote a guest blog for LionHeart about my journey to MRICS.

My journey has most definitely been a rollercoaster with some staggering life challenges and career highs and lows, but I kept going.

I keep going.

This ability to bounce back and recover from whatever life throws at you is something I have been reflecting on in the past few weeks as my resilience has definitely been tested during a particularly busy period.

I thrive on a challenge, and I feel that I often do my best work against a deadline.  But I also have a tendency to over commit, it is the people pleaser in me.  I am at essence someone that finds it hard to say no to opportunity and having multiple commitments means that when something doesn’t go to plan or deadlines change, my ability to flex with the changing needs has been hampered by my own actions! But I keep going. I get it done and often take the hit to my wellbeing. 

I do beat myself up about things that didn’t go to plan. I mentally replay them over and over. Overthinking. I am not one for accepting a silver or bronze service from myself. 

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If you google resilience one of the first things that struck me was the sheer number of webpages or articles citing how to build your resilience, the next was that this is clearly one of the key skills sought after by employers as the scope, scale and speed of work expectations builds leaving employees feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. The measure of resilience in leadership is your ability to not only survive what is thrown at you but for you to recover, adapt and thrive.

Building resilience is holistic – you have to consider how you approach challenges, how you respond and learn from them. It is most definitely an active process. 

The ability to cope well with pressure or uncertainty relies on your behaviours and your actions. Anyone can learn these habits and form their own strategies but first it requires an attitude adjustment.  You have to choose positive. Choose to be proactive. Choose to learn from it.  Choose to see it as a step in the journey rather than something that has ended it.

I absolutely feel the failures, mistakes and lows but I choose to work through it quickly because using my energy dwelling isn’t getting it done.  I choose to acknowledge, reflect, plan and do.  I choose to act.

“Resilience is really important. Why? Because there really is only one thing you can control in life: yourself. 

When in the moment, it is of course easy to allow your emotions to take the lead and you can so easily end up making a drama out of a crisis.  But if you follow this path you are wasting your energy on not fixing the problem.  Doing something brings back a sense of control.  That gives you the breathing space from your heightened emotional state to think.  It may not immediately solve the issue but it will reset your attitude into problem solving rather than reacting.

I also focus in on compartmentalising what I have to do. 

For me multi-tasking is the enemy of productivity and this is borne out by recent research by the American Psycological Association in that they saw a 40% reduction in productivity when contributors were constantly switching between tasks. 

So I time block. 

One thing at a time, it gives me that instant hit of doing something, a small win to regain control and perspective and resets my attitude to ‘can do’.  It also manages out the distractions.  I remove my focus from dealing with information overload from emails, phones calls etc to concentrate on the one thing.  In a world where we are faced with changing demands and uncertainty, getting something done is an absolute win especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.

There are so many sources of top tips and advice out there and I highly recommend the well-being workshops that LionHeart run as it was at one of these a couple of years ago that Kate Taylor taught me the Pomodoro technique to focus on getting a task done by giving yourself a twenty-five minute slot (using something like a kitchen timer or Pomodoro!).  This is exactly how I can compartmentalise and regain control.  If I can’t get it done in that period, I make a plan to tackle it.

You can also read Kate’s blog from last year here: https://www.lionheart.org.uk/blog/building-resilience-through-your-apc

To sum up:

  • Seek to learn from your setbacks. Don’t beat yourself up, be kind to yourself and reframe to what you can control, your response.
  • Create a responsive comeback plan.  You need to acknowledge, reflect, plan then do.
  • Keep going.  This is an active process. 

I’ve got a long way to go, and you know what?  That is absolutely OK with me. 

Just like Dory, I’m going to keep swimming.

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