I’ve long envied those Hollywood tough guys. Their knack for outwitting almost everyone, their granite-hard attitude to life’s toughest challenges and their ability to come through anything looking as though they’ve just had a shower. I’m not talking about Vinny Jones/Jason Statham types - the guys who, if they were to fall on concrete, the concrete would break. No. James Bond would be a good example here. (And if you throw in brooding good looks, you’ve got me: totally hooked.)
Eagle-eyed readers will rightly note that my chosen example, James Bond, is not a Hollywood export but a British one. A small detail in the larger scheme of things. Take your pick from Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke), Steve Macqueen (well he looked the part) or even Mr. Cool himself, Humphrey Bogart.
But Bond, we all know is the most famous secret agent on the planet. And the man is Teflon-coated; he simply sails from one high-octane scrape to another: infiltrating enemy territory one day, destroying a nuclear silo the next. Through sheer grit and brains (and a bit of help from technology) he gets through tough situations, but he also has the presence of mind to avoid getting too caught up in the good times (i.e. the myriad of romantic liaisons).
It’s fair to say that none of us will ever be like Bond. Most of us won’t be able to get by on three days without sleep. If we drank the same number of martinis as he does we’d probably have moved ourselves and our belongings into the liver unit of our local hospital. Still, it’s fun to play around with the idea that we can be as cool, calm and collected under pressure as Bond. Here goes …
1. Own the mantra: healthy body, healthy mind
You’d be right to wonder when on earth Bond has time to work out at the gym. The man’s clearly of no fixed abode so which gym would give him a contract? Perhaps he’s a pay-as-you-go gym member? Still, it’s hard to imagine that a man with a six-pack doesn’t do any exercise. So start taking exercising seriously (note to self). Remember this: when it comes to exercise, it’s no pain, no gain. So push yourself beyond your pain threshold. Think military presses, bench presses, squats. The benefits from regular exercising, for example, perseverance and discipline, will spill over into other areas of your life. You’ll feel more able to ‘stick things out’ and take on more challenges.
If you’re not keen on the gym then consider taking up other forms of exercise: parkour is a good candidate for Bond-like strength and skill. It’s said to improve areas such as proprioception and decision making. Or try a martial art such as Krav Maga (check out the cool video), Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing, all of which give great workouts.
It’s also important to watch what you eat. Rarely do we see Bond eating a full, hearty meal. This is probably because he follows a dietary regime. The jury’s still out regarding which diet is best for a hectic, high-octane lifestyle. But a Bond-like chum of mine swears by something scarily known as the ‘16/8’ diet, whereby you consume all your calories within eight hours. He credits the diet for his lean, mean fighting machine physique.
2. Know your enemy
More often than not, the enemy is within. It could be a weakness within you that prevents you from ‘getting the job done’ such as fear, procrastination or lack of preparation.
Of course, knowing an external enemy is also crucial: their strengths, weaknesses, priorities and beliefs. As the Chinese military general and strategist Sun Tzu proclaimed, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
In other words, plan to overcome your weakness.
3. Always complete the mission
Giving up should never be an option once you have determined your goals are important. It is very easy to start a project, full of enthusiasm and good intentions, but completing one, particularly one that is unpredictable, risky or challenging, is never easy. Nonetheless, make it a personal rule that if you have established that a goal is important (for Bond the goal is invariably for Queen and country), you will not give up pursuing that goal until it has been reached.
Never allow failure or setbacks to derail your mission. Resilience requires you to bounce back, to ’get back the saddle’, when things don’t go as planned. Remember when Bond said, “I give up?” No, I don’t either. So if you experience setbacks or seemingly impossible challenges, don’t give up. Acknowledge the situation, and work to find a way to move forward.
4. Develop an "explanatory style" of interpreting events.
According to the renowned psychologist Martin Seligman, the way we interpret life’s setbacks is key to our level of resilience. He refers to an “explanatory style” of interpretation which comprises three vital elements:
Permanence: View the effects of bad events as being temporary, not permanent. So rather than responding to criticism from your boss in ways such as, “My boss hates my work”, rather, say, “I haven’t given him what he’s looking for yet” or something less absolute.
When Bond is stuck in a difficult situation, you have the sense that he is confident that the situation he’s in is temporary, not permanent.
Pervasiveness: Refuse to allow setbacks affect other areas of your life. For example, rather than declare that you are "hopeless at everything”, say, “I’m yet to master this”.
Personalization: Resilient people tend to depersonalise setbacks, which leaves their self-esteem intact. A resilient person might comment thus: “The circumstances were not in our favour”, rather than, “I made a mess of the planning.”
One definition of resilience is that it is “the successful adaptation to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions” (Windle 1999, p163 via CIPD). But how we view life tasks also plays a part in our success at managing those tasks, which is why Seligman’s explanatory style is so helpful.
If you are a resilient person, then you have what is increasingly recognised as one of the key attributes for success in the workplace. In our turbulent and challenging environments, it is the resilience of both individuals and organisations which will drive their success.
Resilience does not come naturally to everyone, though, but the good news is that it can be developed. By understanding your own weaknesses and addressing them, adopting the three elements of “explanatory style” to explain setbacks, taking your physical wellbeing seriously and by being ruthlessly committed to your goals, your resilience will soar to Bond-like levels.
What steps have you taken to develop your resilience? I invite you to share them in the comments box below.