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How to stay resilient and drive change in a challenging world

My top tips for maintaining energy and building resilience in the face of daunting and ever renewing challenges in the field of sustainability and responsibility.

Capturing and finding resilience in nature

If you are reading this blog, you are likely to
be interested in change and somehow engaged in driving change; be this in your
community, your workplace, in society as a whole, or even in your own family
setting. You are a change agent, a person leading change whether in a small,
familiar situation or a in a larger and more formal establishment. You are willing
to change yourself and wanting to inspire others to do the same. Great
thinkers, like Gandhi, expressed this in a simple and compelling way I am sure
many of us have used: “Be the change you
wish to see in the world”
. Reg Revans, who pioneered the use of action
learning (this is an approach to solve real problems, involving taking action
and reflecting upon the results, which helps improve both the process of
problem solving, as well as the solutions developed), expressed it in a more
intricate way by saying “Those who are to
change significantly, that which they freshly encounter, must themselves be
changed by the changing of it”
.

Without
deep diving into change theory, my firm belief is that to drive change, we also
need to be prepared to change and must be open to change by that very process.
Change is not linear. There is no simple cause and effect. Change finds its own
wriggly paths, and people respond in different ways to seemingly similar
information. In a world where we face climate change, increased segregation and
injustice to mention a few of the challenges we are all battling, I have
noticed responses of fear, anger, (which are actually also the main drivers of
populism) determination or simply adopting the ostrich approach, by sticking
your head in the sand.

Here
I ask, how do you find the resilience to keep leading change for a more
sustainable world, and I will share with you my own personal reflections and
top tips for building resilience. My hope is that you will take away some
useful ideas on what to try in your own practice and I would love to hear back
from you on what else you do to stay resilient in a challenging and complex world.

My top tips for staying resilient

Morning Pages

The
idea of Morning Pages originates from Julia
Cameron, an American teacher and author among many other talents. She is most
famous for her book ‘The Artist’s Way’,
and she has her own website which is where I first learned about the concept of
Morning Pages, after a recommendation from a friend. I have been using the
practice of writing Morning Pages for some time now, spending about 20-30
minutes every morning. It is a very simple yet effective exercise. This is what
you do: First thing in the morning you simply grab a pen and paper and write
what is on your mind. This can be absolutely anything, there are no rules on
what to write, no right or wrong way of doing it. The only rule relates to how
much you write and even this I find myself tinkering with from time to time,
not to make this yet another chore on the to-do-list of my day. Morning Pages should
be three pages and in its original version, it should be longhand (i.e. ordinary
handwriting). There is evidence which shows that writing by hand improves brain
development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. It also helps
you focus on the stuff you are actively working on. So I would highly encourage
you to try it by hand. Having said this, for the technologically inclined there
is an App to download on your phone called Morning Pages, and if this makes you
more prone to trying it out, go for it (having an App does help you to do it
anywhere, like when commuting to work on the train in the morning and of course
has the added benefit of not using any paper resource).

In
either way, the benefit is a de-cluttered mind; free from nagging thoughts and
must-do’s, child tantrums, teenage grumpiness and dirty dishes; leaving you to focus
and get on with what is important in your day. It can also help bring out new
ideas and issues which have been lurking just out of reach of your conscious
mind, helping you to move on where you might have been stuck on how to
progress.

Mindfulness

A recent report from Ashridge Business School highlights the benefits of better leadership, collaboration skills and resilience in a complex world by practicing mindfulness. What is there not to like about this? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, not to getting distracted or overwhelmed about what is happening around us. The term ‘mindfulness’ is a translation of the Pali term sati (Pali is a language native to the Indian subcontinent) which is a significant element of Buddhist traditions. To me, mindfulness allows you to slow down, notice what is going on and allowing you to practice active listening; qualities which are helpful in leading change and coaching. The world’s top companies are increasingly introducing mindfulness practices into their organisations to help employees reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus and attention, and ultimately enhance productivity. Why not try it yourself? It is worth noting that to gain the benefits you also need to keep up the good practice, ideally by building it into an existing routine (as this makes it easier to remember to do), and practicing it for at least 10 minutes every day.

Journaling

Journaling is a similar practice to Morning Pages as it
involves writing whatever is on your mind, but it can happen at any time of the
day (Morning Pages should, as the name implies be written in the morning) and it
can take any shape or form and is not focused on reaching three pages of
longhand writing. Some people write what they are grateful for every day, some use
it to digest their day, settling thoughts which may aid sleep, some do mind
maps or bullet points, anything works. There is a growing body of evidence that
this is great for our physical wellbeing. I also find that when writing down a
particular issue, a problem or a thought which is not yet quite developed, something
that is waiting and wanting to be explored, something you don’t quite yet have
the solution for, it can bring out new ideas, new thoughts, which are at the outskirts
of your thinking. This can happen if you stay open to listening to your
instincts, and what appears when you let the pen hit paper, letting the words
just flow and letting what wants to emerge to emerge, not holding back. It
might be a solution you had not thought of, something unexpected. It opens up
for new thinking. Try it.

Walking in nature

Many
of us lead busy working lives and have hectic private lives, where we are
trying to fit in all our musts and have-to’s. At the height of busyness, I find
that there is not much beating a walk outdoors to let go and find balance and
resilience. A good pair of shoes is all that is needed. Take a few deep
breaths, let your arms swing freely, enjoy some silence away from a busy
office, maybe even practice mindfulness when walking. In Swedish, we would say
that it is som
balsam för själen
or like balm
for your soul
. If you don’t have a forest path around the corner, a walk
along a river or in the park, even if in a city setting, will do just as well.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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