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“Learn the skills of change.” With Beau Henderson & Jim Lawless

Learn the skills of change. The rate of change around us is now faster than the natural human ability to adapt. Well, every athlete is facing a similar rate of change in the performance of their competitors — so they study how to enhance their natural abilities to run, jump or throw and learn new skills […]

Learn the skills of change. The rate of change around us is now faster than the natural human ability to adapt. Well, every athlete is facing a similar rate of change in the performance of their competitors — so they study how to enhance their natural abilities to run, jump or throw and learn new skills and approaches. We do not do this at work.

We must enhance our natural ability to change to keep up with the pace of change around us. Let me explain:

If I am to free dive to 101m under the sea, I will leave the comfort zone, the place where we think we have certainty — and where new levels of effort are not required.

I cannot complete this voyage out of the comfort zone and through the confusion zone if I do not have knowledge on how I perceive the world around me in order to query the messages of fear — or of relaxation — that I am generating in my brain. My perceptions are the “data” that tells my system when to fire up the defense process.

I cannot get to 101m if I cannot control my emotions, if I do not have new levels of self-awareness to interrupt damaging thought patterns and relax my body when tension creeps in, if I cannot communicate with humility and vulnerability with my team in order to receive what I need from them in order to feel secure when I’m all alone, far beyond the comfort zone, and so on.

In other words — leaving the comfort zone is a set of learnable skills. We can enhance our natural ability to cope with or deliver change.

When we understand that the mental, physical and emotional shifts of leaving the comfort zone are all normal — and how to handle ourselves through this period — then experiencing them is OK. It’s not an emergency — it’s merely a sign that we are delivering the change and growth that we read books on and talk about.

But if we are not prepared and cannot handle it, we will either run back to the comfort zone and “resist change” or suffer unmanageable mental and physical stress outside in the confusion zone!


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Lawless.

Jim is the elite team coach of choice for many senior leadership teams around the world. He has been the architect of high performance and change in global organizations, high growth companies and Olympic teams for two decades.

Recently ranked #6 Motivational Speaker in the world and #1 Outside of the USA by Global Gurus, he has inspired and educated over half a million people on five continents through his mindset-shifting keynotes and workshops and many more through his bestselling book, ‘Taming Tigers’ (Penguin Random House).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Mypleasure, thank you for inviting me.

My parents encouraged me to escape the insecurity we had experienced as an immigrant family starting out in the UK. That made sense to me. So l worked hard to qualify into a profession: law. A wrong choice for me. Then, one beautiful sunny Sunday, on a railway station on my way to the office, the announcer announced a train to Brighton, a seaside town. I thought: “I wish I could get on that train.”

Then I realized that I could board that train. I had legs and cash for a fare. I was choosing. This changed the course of my life. It remains at the root of my work: I am writing the story of my life. And I must own my story when I am an old man facing the end and when I speak to my children each day.

I left law and spent a year at drama school. I started a business teaching stagecraft to business people, using theatre to change their understanding of themselves, their power and how they could communicate with and touch and inspire others.

My clients invited me to assist them with change on a wider level — something I would never have spotted as a natural progression.

Those same people then invited me to speak and write on change. That led to a challenge to prove my approach personally by becoming a televised jockey in 12 months. Later I tested new ideas by becoming the UK’s deepest free diver, with a 101m record dive.

But my main day to day focus for the past twenty years has not been adventures. These were done alongside my day job of assisting people to successfully move forward — to do the things they wish or need to do next at work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are many, on stage, on horseback and underwater.

However, the time I was invited to lunch with government officials, after closing an official event in a country which shall remain nameless, is one of the most interesting to me.

I declined the invitation as I had to get to the airport for my return flight. They looked offended. Then one said “wait a moment” and got on his phone. He turned back smiling after thirty seconds. “You can come to lunch. Your plane will wait for you” he announced.

An international scheduled flight was duly delayed. This was my first encounter with unchecked power. It was extremely unnerving.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I was persuaded to deliver my first “motivational speech”. I didn’t want to do it. It took three invitations from the same gentleman to the same event before I accepted.

It was a 60-minute slot. The audience were all senior and successful. All the time I was in front of them, I was consumed with one thought: “Who am I to be here speaking to these people?” I was sure they were thinking the same thing.

So I decided in my panic to edit my carefully prepared content. I leapt from “high spot to high spot” and left out all the valleys. It was like taking an album and just playing the hit tracks. Guaranteed to make a positive impact. Guaranteed to take a much shorter amount of time!

After 30 minutes I closed and left the stage with a guilty backwards glance at the poor organizer, sitting in the front row with his mouth open wondering how to fill thirty minutes.

Thankfully, we made friends again. And amazingly, as I tried to become invisible during the coffee break, a member of the audience who was unaware of the time issue came over, said how impressed she was and invited me to speak at her event! Who knows what I would be doing if she hadn’t…

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I agree with you and many people have profoundly influenced and supported me.

The person who made the biggest impact, though, was Gee Armytage (now Gee Bradburne) who helped me to become a televised jockey. I did not really believe that I could do it. “People like me just didn’t do things like that”, I thought. But she clearly believed I could. And she acted accordingly. Soon I also acted accordingly and we were doing it. And then we did it.

Gee changed my life and how I perceived myself.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

My industry is the delivery of sustained high performance and transformation. So my peers are unlikely to need any advice from me on this. If they did ask, I’d suggest taking the rest, ensuring we make time to be with those we love, eat well, sleep, hydrate and exercise. And having good boundaries — not owning problems that aren’t ours.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

We are moving from the Industrial Age to the Disruptive Age. This requires us to shift the culture in various ways to thrive. In particular, where in the “hierarchy” we need decisions to be taken for agility and competitive edge (less senior) and the level of information we demand to be available before the decision is taken (less information).

The challenge is that people have generally been rewarded since age 4 for seeking permission to act and only acting with near-perfect information to get the right answer first time. They are rightfully reticent to take the risk that the new cultures are requesting.

We need to build cultures around a context or, at work, it is generally just meaningless words and posters. The context is set by a clear purpose — so it is possible for everybody to identify the right general direction of travel and act accordingly, even if you are a new apprentice. And then a culture of permission to act — and acceptance of intelligent mistakes needs to be fostered through training and communication.

There are significant layers of complexity to achieving this. Managers and ‘managed’ both need new skills — the skill to build a stronger team with looser bonds and higher psychological safety — and the skill to leave the comfort zone and become accountable.

But I believe that this is now the starting point for a fantastic work culture. This is a cause for delight! It is now in the interests of companies to move from “parent/child” to “adult/adult”. This should bring radical improvement in engagement and individual fulfilment at work when achieved.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

1 Learn the skills of change

The rate of change around us is now faster than the natural human ability to adapt. Well, every athlete is facing a similar rate of change in the performance of their competitors — so they study how to enhance their natural abilities to run, jump or throw and learn new skills and approaches. We do not do this at work.

We must enhance our natural ability to change to keep up with the pace of chance around us. Let me explain:

If I am to free dive to 101m under the sea, I will leave the comfort zone, the place where we think we have certainty — and where new levels of effort are not required.

I cannot complete this voyage out of the comfort zone and through the confusion zone if I do not have knowledge on how I perceive the world around me in order to query the messages of fear — or of relaxation — that I am generating in my brain. My perceptions are the “data” that tells my system when to fire up the defense process.

I cannot get to 101m if I cannot control my emotions, if I do not have new levels of self-awareness to interrupt damaging thought patterns and relax my body when tension creeps in, if I cannot communicate with humility and vulnerability with my team in order to receive what I need from them in order to feel secure when I’m all alone, far beyond the comfort zone, and so on.

In other words — leaving the comfort zone is a set of learnable skills. We can enhance our natural ability to cope with or deliver change.

When we understand that the mental, physical and emotional shifts of leaving the comfort zone are all normal — and how to handle ourselves through this period — then experiencing them is OK. It’s not an emergency — it’s merely a sign that we are delivering the change and growth that we read books on and talk about.

But if we are not prepared and cannot handle it, we will either run back to the comfort zone and “resist change” or suffer unmanageable mental and physical stress outside in the confusion zone!

2 Own your mental health

We are the primary carers for our own mental health. Just because stress manifests at work does not mean it is caused by work.

Mental health issues and stress at work may well be the ‘fault’ of the employer or manager.

Equally, they may not. They may be something that were caused, and should be resolved, by the individual experiencing them.

If a human being is not providing themselves with healthy food, good hydration, exercise, sleep, rest time and companionship, or is using substances (including alcohol) as a number or spending hours fighting others on twitter: there are already mental health issues.

Add the expected stress of professional change and growth and cracks may appear.

It may well involve both courage and creativity to solve these challenges. But solved they can be — especially working with an (honest) other.

3 Take control of change: Know why you are making a change

Humans don’t make successful journeys across the confusion zone of uncertainty and risk without a reason. We reflect upon and know why we are doing it.

Even when the change is forced by, for example, a change of strategy at work — we can find our own objectives, growth points, learning points and wins within that new plan and create our own purpose and goals accordingly.

The toughest changes are when we are told that they are coming — but given no certainty as to what they will be. Then we have to rise up to the next level of the growth journey presented by change. We have to sit calmly with uncertainty, trusting that it will turn out ok — and acknowledging that there is nothing we can do to make the situation certain.

This was something I first encountered when one of my children was ill. We could ensure the best medical treatment and try to keep her morale high. But we all had to sit with uncertainty. It was an extremely challenging time.

4 Dare to Have New Conversations

If you are going to leave the comfort zone and enter the confusion zone, you need some level of security in all the “risk and uncertainty” or the mental health toll is too high. You begin to wonder if your children will be able to eat if there’s an error — and there is a high risk of error.

So the last thing you need as you approach change is an authority figure behind you with a clipboard marking your work for your “annual assessment”!

You need somebody with a rope and a lifebuoy and a hotline to some people who can help in an emergency!

But people cannot mind-read. You may have to inform those around you that you need a change in the relationships if you are going to go out into the unknown for the team. Which brings me neatly to my final idea…

5 Discover Humility and Vulnerability

When we have uncertainty and risk, we do not have all the answers. Yet we are trained from an early age always to have all the answers — or be invisible — in an educational or work setting.

If change is approached from the position of having to know the answers and get it right — we’re being inauthentic and can look like something of a fool to less ego-driven grown-ups around us who can see the situation clearly.

Sometimes, the only authentic approach is to recognize that we don’t know. But we’re taking good counsel and doing our best to move forward and do the right thing.

One of the most powerful leadership team exercises is based on the rules of the Chorus in ancient Greek theater. The Chorus of many performers could move onstage as if guided by an unseen hand and act in concert as if carefully choreographed.

In fact, the rule is that if you can see nobody in front of you, you are the leader. If you see somebody — you mimic their moves attentively and precisely. If the leader turns — they will see somebody — and that person will now see nobody and be the leader — unless they continue the turn.

It is an exercise that leadership teams find very profound and it leads immediately to fascinating conversations.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

I think this area is changing fast.

We have inherited a perception that are “old” at 65. We clearly need to recalibrate that — even if we are fortunate enough to be able to hit financial independence at that age. Not having purpose or making a contribution for thirty years of adult life is likely to impact mental and physical wellbeing.

The Queen of England is working hard and productively at nearly 94 and one of my personal heroes, Daniel Barenboim, is still conducting piano concertos (form the piano, as soloist!) at age 77 whilst also making a powerful political impact.

We all need purpose to maintain mental health. Find a new purpose! A new career, supporting your children in caring for your grandchildren, fighting for the environment, establishing a youth center: the world needs you!

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Wow. That’s a big responsibility. Well, I would say…

For teens, allow yourself to try for your dreams. Don’t let anybody define you — but remember you can only define yourself as a super coder, writer, musician or sportsperson by performing at a very high level — and that takes commitment and massive amounts of work. Otherwise you’re just a talker. Graft!

If you are willing to graft — go for it. Believe that you have time to recover if it goes wrong. Some people lose everything and start again age 50. You can definitely start a new path age 25. Do not feel you have to “sell out” — or that you have to be an overnight success to “prove” something. But all that only counts if you are working incredibly hard at it and making progress — not just talking.

And pre-teens: draw an imaginary bold marker pen circle around yourself when you are with people who hurt or worry you. Do not let their words in. Do not let their bodies in. You do not have to listen to people who say things that hurt you. Let their words bounce off of the circle.

But also remember that being criticized for bad behavior or encouraged to do better by somebody who cares about you is not hurting — it’s just challenging! Even if they say it in a way that wasn’t your favorite approach.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. When I was invited to make my first “motivational speech” I went through three months of panic. I read Life of Pi in that time and the Tiger idea was born. I wrote to Yann Martel to thank him. It’s also a fantastic book!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask the people of the world to demand that their governments “rent” the planet’s key climate stability resources from the countries where they are located.

For example, one of Brazil’s great natural resources is the Amazonian rain forest. It is an unfair ask and it would seem, so far, an unrealistic and unworkable ask, for the rest of us to ‘demand’ that the Brazilian people do not exploit their natural resources. But if we leased the rainforest from Brazil for the world’s benefit (at a rent equivalent to its value to the people of Brazil), perhaps we could turn the incentive from de-forestation to protection.

Let’s face it, the world can afford to rent the rainforest. And the world cannot afford to lose it.

We already manage to protect UNESCO Heritage Sites. This is great — but far less important than our climate!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I often see outcomes as impossible for “somebody like me”. I have to remember that nobody was born playing Beethoven or flying an Air Ambulance helicopter.

So I try to take single steps — way before I am ready to. Sometimes I get to step five and I hate the path. Then I stop. But choosing to take that first single step one morning instead of making a coffee or writing an email — (it’s always a phone call for me!) has led, amongst other things, to me racing on horseback, diving to 101m with no tank in the Red Sea, being published in many languages, playing a Mozart sonata, qualifying as a helicopter pilot and being father to two wonderful girls.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-lawless/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jim_lawless

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tamingtigers/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jim_lawless/

Learn the skills of change. The rate of change around us is now faster than the natural human ability to adapt. Well, every athlete is facing a similar rate of change in the performance of their competitors — so they study how to enhance their natural abilities to run, jump or throw and learn new skills and approaches. We do not do this at work.

We must enhance our natural ability to change to keep up with the pace of change around us. Let me explain:

If I am to free dive to 101m under the sea, I will leave the comfort zone, the place where we think we have certainty — and where new levels of effort are not required.

I cannot complete this voyage out of the comfort zone and through the confusion zone if I do not have knowledge on how I perceive the world around me in order to query the messages of fear — or of relaxation — that I am generating in my brain. My perceptions are the “data” that tells my system when to fire up the defense process.

I cannot get to 101m if I cannot control my emotions, if I do not have new levels of self-awareness to interrupt damaging thought patterns and relax my body when tension creeps in, if I cannot communicate with humility and vulnerability with my team in order to receive what I need from them in order to feel secure when I’m all alone, far beyond the comfort zone, and so on.

In other words — leaving the comfort zone is a set of learnable skills. We can enhance our natural ability to cope with or deliver change.

When we understand that the mental, physical and emotional shifts of leaving the comfort zone are all normal — and how to handle ourselves through this period — then experiencing them is OK. It’s not an emergency — it’s merely a sign that we are delivering the change and growth that we read books on and talk about.

But if we are not prepared and cannot handle it, we will either run back to the comfort zone and “resist change” or suffer unmanageable mental and physical stress outside in the confusion zone!


Asa part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Lawless.

Jim is the elite team coach of choice for many senior leadership teams around the world. He has been the architect of high performance and change in global organizations, high growth companies and Olympic teams for two decades.

Recently ranked #6 Motivational Speaker in the world and #1 Outside of the USA by Global Gurus, he has inspired and educated over half a million people on five continents through his mindset-shifting keynotes and workshops and many more through his bestselling book, ‘Taming Tigers’ (Penguin Random House).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Mypleasure, thank you for inviting me.

My parents encouraged me to escape the insecurity we had experienced as an immigrant family starting out in the UK. That made sense to me. So l worked hard to qualify into a profession: law. A wrong choice for me. Then, one beautiful sunny Sunday, on a railway station on my way to the office, the announcer announced a train to Brighton, a seaside town. I thought: “I wish I could get on that train.”

Then I realized that I could board that train. I had legs and cash for a fare. I was choosing. This changed the course of my life. It remains at the root of my work: I am writing the story of my life. And I must own my story when I am an old man facing the end and when I speak to my children each day.

I left law and spent a year at drama school. I started a business teaching stagecraft to business people, using theatre to change their understanding of themselves, their power and how they could communicate with and touch and inspire others.

My clients invited me to assist them with change on a wider level — something I would never have spotted as a natural progression.

Those same people then invited me to speak and write on change. That led to a challenge to prove my approach personally by becoming a televised jockey in 12 months. Later I tested new ideas by becoming the UK’s deepest free diver, with a 101m record dive.

But my main day to day focus for the past twenty years has not been adventures. These were done alongside my day job of assisting people to successfully move forward — to do the things they wish or need to do next at work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are many, on stage, on horseback and underwater.

However, the time I was invited to lunch with government officials, after closing an official event in a country which shall remain nameless, is one of the most interesting to me.

I declined the invitation as I had to get to the airport for my return flight. They looked offended. Then one said “wait a moment” and got on his phone. He turned back smiling after thirty seconds. “You can come to lunch. Your plane will wait for you” he announced.

An international scheduled flight was duly delayed. This was my first encounter with unchecked power. It was extremely unnerving.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I was persuaded to deliver my first “motivational speech”. I didn’t want to do it. It took three invitations from the same gentleman to the same event before I accepted.

It was a 60-minute slot. The audience were all senior and successful. All the time I was in front of them, I was consumed with one thought: “Who am I to be here speaking to these people?” I was sure they were thinking the same thing.

So I decided in my panic to edit my carefully prepared content. I leapt from “high spot to high spot” and left out all the valleys. It was like taking an album and just playing the hit tracks. Guaranteed to make a positive impact. Guaranteed to take a much shorter amount of time!

After 30 minutes I closed and left the stage with a guilty backwards glance at the poor organizer, sitting in the front row with his mouth open wondering how to fill thirty minutes.

Thankfully, we made friends again. And amazingly, as I tried to become invisible during the coffee break, a member of the audience who was unaware of the time issue came over, said how impressed she was and invited me to speak at her event! Who knows what I would be doing if she hadn’t…

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I agree with you and many people have profoundly influenced and supported me.

The person who made the biggest impact, though, was Gee Armytage (now Gee Bradburne) who helped me to become a televised jockey. I did not really believe that I could do it. “People like me just didn’t do things like that”, I thought. But she clearly believed I could. And she acted accordingly. Soon I also acted accordingly and we were doing it. And then we did it.

Gee changed my life and how I perceived myself.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

My industry is the delivery of sustained high performance and transformation. So my peers are unlikely to need any advice from me on this. If they did ask, I’d suggest taking the rest, ensuring we make time to be with those we love, eat well, sleep, hydrate and exercise. And having good boundaries — not owning problems that aren’t ours.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

We are moving from the Industrial Age to the Disruptive Age. This requires us to shift the culture in various ways to thrive. In particular, where in the “hierarchy” we need decisions to be taken for agility and competitive edge (less senior) and the level of information we demand to be available before the decision is taken (less information).

The challenge is that people have generally been rewarded since age 4 for seeking permission to act and only acting with near-perfect information to get the right answer first time. They are rightfully reticent to take the risk that the new cultures are requesting.

We need to build cultures around a context or, at work, it is generally just meaningless words and posters. The context is set by a clear purpose — so it is possible for everybody to identify the right general direction of travel and act accordingly, even if you are a new apprentice. And then a culture of permission to act — and acceptance of intelligent mistakes needs to be fostered through training and communication.

There are significant layers of complexity to achieving this. Managers and ‘managed’ both need new skills — the skill to build a stronger team with looser bonds and higher psychological safety — and the skill to leave the comfort zone and become accountable.

But I believe that this is now the starting point for a fantastic work culture. This is a cause for delight! It is now in the interests of companies to move from “parent/child” to “adult/adult”. This should bring radical improvement in engagement and individual fulfilment at work when achieved.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

1 Learn the skills of change

The rate of change around us is now faster than the natural human ability to adapt. Well, every athlete is facing a similar rate of change in the performance of their competitors — so they study how to enhance their natural abilities to run, jump or throw and learn new skills and approaches. We do not do this at work.

We must enhance our natural ability to change to keep up with the pace of chance around us. Let me explain:

If I am to free dive to 101m under the sea, I will leave the comfort zone, the place where we think we have certainty — and where new levels of effort are not required.

I cannot complete this voyage out of the comfort zone and through the confusion zone if I do not have knowledge on how I perceive the world around me in order to query the messages of fear — or of relaxation — that I am generating in my brain. My perceptions are the “data” that tells my system when to fire up the defense process.

I cannot get to 101m if I cannot control my emotions, if I do not have new levels of self-awareness to interrupt damaging thought patterns and relax my body when tension creeps in, if I cannot communicate with humility and vulnerability with my team in order to receive what I need from them in order to feel secure when I’m all alone, far beyond the comfort zone, and so on.

In other words — leaving the comfort zone is a set of learnable skills. We can enhance our natural ability to cope with or deliver change.

When we understand that the mental, physical and emotional shifts of leaving the comfort zone are all normal — and how to handle ourselves through this period — then experiencing them is OK. It’s not an emergency — it’s merely a sign that we are delivering the change and growth that we read books on and talk about.

But if we are not prepared and cannot handle it, we will either run back to the comfort zone and “resist change” or suffer unmanageable mental and physical stress outside in the confusion zone!

2 Own your mental health

We are the primary carers for our own mental health. Just because stress manifests at work does not mean it is caused by work.

Mental health issues and stress at work may well be the ‘fault’ of the employer or manager.

Equally, they may not. They may be something that were caused, and should be resolved, by the individual experiencing them.

If a human being is not providing themselves with healthy food, good hydration, exercise, sleep, rest time and companionship, or is using substances (including alcohol) as a number or spending hours fighting others on twitter: there are already mental health issues.

Add the expected stress of professional change and growth and cracks may appear.

It may well involve both courage and creativity to solve these challenges. But solved they can be — especially working with an (honest) other.

3 Take control of change: Know why you are making a change

Humans don’t make successful journeys across the confusion zone of uncertainty and risk without a reason. We reflect upon and know why we are doing it.

Even when the change is forced by, for example, a change of strategy at work — we can find our own objectives, growth points, learning points and wins within that new plan and create our own purpose and goals accordingly.

The toughest changes are when we are told that they are coming — but given no certainty as to what they will be. Then we have to rise up to the next level of the growth journey presented by change. We have to sit calmly with uncertainty, trusting that it will turn out ok — and acknowledging that there is nothing we can do to make the situation certain.

This was something I first encountered when one of my children was ill. We could ensure the best medical treatment and try to keep her morale high. But we all had to sit with uncertainty. It was an extremely challenging time.

4 Dare to Have New Conversations

If you are going to leave the comfort zone and enter the confusion zone, you need some level of security in all the “risk and uncertainty” or the mental health toll is too high. You begin to wonder if your children will be able to eat if there’s an error — and there is a high risk of error.

So the last thing you need as you approach change is an authority figure behind you with a clipboard marking your work for your “annual assessment”!

You need somebody with a rope and a lifebuoy and a hotline to some people who can help in an emergency!

But people cannot mind-read. You may have to inform those around you that you need a change in the relationships if you are going to go out into the unknown for the team. Which brings me neatly to my final idea…

5 Discover Humility and Vulnerability

When we have uncertainty and risk, we do not have all the answers. Yet we are trained from an early age always to have all the answers — or be invisible — in an educational or work setting.

If change is approached from the position of having to know the answers and get it right — we’re being inauthentic and can look like something of a fool to less ego-driven grown-ups around us who can see the situation clearly.

Sometimes, the only authentic approach is to recognize that we don’t know. But we’re taking good counsel and doing our best to move forward and do the right thing.

One of the most powerful leadership team exercises is based on the rules of the Chorus in ancient Greek theater. The Chorus of many performers could move onstage as if guided by an unseen hand and act in concert as if carefully choreographed.

In fact, the rule is that if you can see nobody in front of you, you are the leader. If you see somebody — you mimic their moves attentively and precisely. If the leader turns — they will see somebody — and that person will now see nobody and be the leader — unless they continue the turn.

It is an exercise that leadership teams find very profound and it leads immediately to fascinating conversations.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

I think this area is changing fast.

We have inherited a perception that are “old” at 65. We clearly need to recalibrate that — even if we are fortunate enough to be able to hit financial independence at that age. Not having purpose or making a contribution for thirty years of adult life is likely to impact mental and physical wellbeing.

The Queen of England is working hard and productively at nearly 94 and one of my personal heroes, Daniel Barenboim, is still conducting piano concertos (form the piano, as soloist!) at age 77 whilst also making a powerful political impact.

We all need purpose to maintain mental health. Find a new purpose! A new career, supporting your children in caring for your grandchildren, fighting for the environment, establishing a youth center: the world needs you!

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Wow. That’s a big responsibility. Well, I would say…

For teens, allow yourself to try for your dreams. Don’t let anybody define you — but remember you can only define yourself as a super coder, writer, musician or sportsperson by performing at a very high level — and that takes commitment and massive amounts of work. Otherwise you’re just a talker. Graft!

If you are willing to graft — go for it. Believe that you have time to recover if it goes wrong. Some people lose everything and start again age 50. You can definitely start a new path age 25. Do not feel you have to “sell out” — or that you have to be an overnight success to “prove” something. But all that only counts if you are working incredibly hard at it and making progress — not just talking.

And pre-teens: draw an imaginary bold marker pen circle around yourself when you are with people who hurt or worry you. Do not let their words in. Do not let their bodies in. You do not have to listen to people who say things that hurt you. Let their words bounce off of the circle.

But also remember that being criticized for bad behavior or encouraged to do better by somebody who cares about you is not hurting — it’s just challenging! Even if they say it in a way that wasn’t your favorite approach.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. When I was invited to make my first “motivational speech” I went through three months of panic. I read Life of Pi in that time and the Tiger idea was born. I wrote to Yann Martel to thank him. It’s also a fantastic book!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask the people of the world to demand that their governments “rent” the planet’s key climate stability resources from the countries where they are located.

For example, one of Brazil’s great natural resources is the Amazonian rain forest. It is an unfair ask and it would seem, so far, an unrealistic and unworkable ask, for the rest of us to ‘demand’ that the Brazilian people do not exploit their natural resources. But if we leased the rainforest from Brazil for the world’s benefit (at a rent equivalent to its value to the people of Brazil), perhaps we could turn the incentive from de-forestation to protection.

Let’s face it, the world can afford to rent the rainforest. And the world cannot afford to lose it.

We already manage to protect UNESCO Heritage Sites. This is great — but far less important than our climate!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I often see outcomes as impossible for “somebody like me”. I have to remember that nobody was born playing Beethoven or flying an Air Ambulance helicopter.

So I try to take single steps — way before I am ready to. Sometimes I get to step five and I hate the path. Then I stop. But choosing to take that first single step one morning instead of making a coffee or writing an email — (it’s always a phone call for me!) has led, amongst other things, to me racing on horseback, diving to 101m with no tank in the Red Sea, being published in many languages, playing a Mozart sonata, qualifying as a helicopter pilot and being father to two wonderful girls.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-lawless/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jim_lawless

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tamingtigers/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jim_lawless/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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