‘I’m always surprised by how little psychological insight leaders have when navigating what’s going on in their heads. The textbook line from disaster management is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You need to understand you have to pace yourself: any type of longer-term adversity is physically exhausting and emotionally draining. 

The way to motivate yourself is to have a good recovery routine – otherwise you’ll just burn out. Any athlete will tell you that; it’s exactly the same for leaders. Mental fitness requires the same as physical fitness: training and recovery, to ensure you’re paying back into your psychological piggy bank.’ 

Amplify positive emotions

‘Positive emotions have to be taken seriously; people often don’t. It’s easy to drown in negative emotions – we’re hard-wired to do that. They stick to us like velcro while positive emotions bounce off. But they’re incredibly powerful during tough times. You have to tap into those things that make you feel good; that distract your ruminating mind.’

Build a bank of distractions

‘The foundation of resilience is mental agility: being able to pivot and flex. You have to have flexible ways to let off steam. If you can’t do your workout because you’ve hurt your ankle, what do you do then? 

‘Mental fitness is just the same – there are going to be new barriers, and you have to work out ways around them. It’s different for different people; at the moment I’m reading my Kindle in the middle of the night when I’m catastrophising, intentionally choosing books to read that make me feel like my problems are small.’

Keep in touch with the why

‘The other important thing is tapping into your why. Just knowing why you’re doing this – even the minuscule tasks, the things you don’t like – and working out how they fit into the big picture of what your mission is.’

This article is part of a bigger feature on leadership in tough times.

Read more about 5 things that make a great leader in tough times.

This article was first published in Courier Issue 35, June/July 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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