For our first conversation on the podcast, we’re tackling the topic of resilience
Almost everyone I know has felt a deep need to cultivate resilience over the last few years. Life has tossed us around like a plaything and having a cushion of resilience feels more needed than ever.
But what exactly is resilience? Is it about being tough and gritting our teeth through turmoil? In this conversation, I speak to resilience coach Alex Pett and F1 journalist Lawrence Barretto. Both shed an incredible light on what resilience truly is and the ways we can build it ourselves.
Listen to the episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Transcript of episode:
Kat: Hello everyone and welcome to the very first conversation here on Happiful: Finding What Works. I'm so excited because today we're gonna be delving into the topic of resilience and I'm joined by resilience coach Alex Pett and writer and presenter for F1 Lawrence Barretto. So before we get into this topic of resilience, I'd love it if you two could introduce yourselves and tell us a bit more about the work that you do. So, Alex, I'm gonna come to you first.
Alex: As you said, I am a resilience coach. So I work with people on transforming their lives and moving out of a place of sort of stuckness and survival into thriving, dealing differently with difficulties, removing limits and stepping up to who they can actually be and who they want to be. So the work I do is a lot about basically connecting people to themselves and helping them to step into who that really is.
Kat: Amazing. Thank you, Alex and yourself, Lawrence.
Lawrence: So, while Alex has got a proper job, I essentially just spend my life travelling around the world following Formula One, interviewing drivers, just trying to tell stories really and kind of bring to life a sport that I really love. So I do a little bit of writing, I do a bit of presenting, I do podcasts, I host events. So it's a real spread but it's a job that I've always wanted to do. So I'm very lucky that I've got to this spot.
Kat: Amazing. So to start this conversation about resilience, I'd really love to hear a bit more about what resilience means to you on a more personal level and maybe any way it's influenced your lives. So again, Alex, I'm gonna start with you. Can you tell us a bit more about what resilience means to you?
Alex: First of all, can I just say that's the first time anyone's described my job as a proper job. <Laugh>
Kat and Lawrence: <laugh>.
Alex: I'm constantly having people go, 'You do that for a living, that's amazing!' So I came to resilience because I lived without it for such a long time or I lived with such a low level of it that life was extremely difficult. Everything just knocked me over very quickly. I found it impossible to bounce back because my inner narrative was so harsh, so cruel. I was a perfectionist rather than a high achiever. And it was really tough and things that happened to most people in life would absolutely floor me.
And at the same time, I was working as a lawyer in the city, so I was in a very pressured environment and I was trying to respond to that with really just no resilience tools and no resources. I didn't know how to manage my emotions. Staying psychologically steady was just an absolute pipe dream <laugh>.
I wasn't flexible. I was very rigid. Like I said, things would absolutely take me down if they happened, there wasn't much adaptability there. So obviously that came to a head at a point in my life as it tends to do. After that, when I began discovering these resources for resilience and realising what was missing, it just became this sort of acknowledgement of like, oh my God, this is so important and it's important to everyone.
And there's this massive misconception about what resilience actually is. I mean we can come to that in a minute and I don't want to dominate the discussion, but it's really been watching my own life transform through really simple and accessible stuff. Just taking responsibility for what's in your head, what's happened to you in the past and wrapping it all up in self-compassion and self-kindness and realising that everything I was taught and everything society teaches us isn't that helpful in terms of that stuff. That's why I became a coach because learning resilience or becoming more resilient, is simple but it's not easy, but it is accessible to everyone. So that's basically how I ended up here.
Kat: I really love that description of it's simple but not easy because that's so true. Once you know the tools, it is a simple thing to do, but it's not the easiest because of our human nature. And yes, we will definitely get to the misconceptions because I think that's a really important point. To come to you Lawrence, can you tell us a bit more about how resilience has shown up for you in your life?
Lawrence: I think it was really interesting what Alex was saying about society and how society doesn't really make it easy for people growing up. I think there are too many misconceptions like you said, but when I was growing up, I lived in an area where I was a little bit different - me and my family were a bit different. So I think we had inbuilt resilience and that you just had to crack on with life. You kind of ignored a lot of things that people would say. I think as I was growing up, a lot of people would tell me, oh no, you can't do that because it would be better if you do something simpler and easier and more likely. I think a lot of those things were things that my parents faced and what my sister and I faced.
So, because of that, I suppose it's bloody-mindedness really, we just took the other option and down the other extreme and went down the pathway of actually, 'We're gonna prove you wrong and we're gonna go and try and be the best people that we can be'. But I've only been able to do that because I've had very supportive parents, I've got a very supportive family and I've got very supportive friends. I think if I didn't have that bubble around me, I don't think it would be possible. But also you need that bubble consistently. So they always need to be around to help you when you have those tougher days, you need them to help you bounce back really.
So when I was growing up and, really, every step through my career, I've just found that I'm a little bit different and because of that it's been harder, but it's actually way more satisfying when you get to where you want to get to because it feels like you've had to work a little bit harder for it and all the hard work was worth it.
So that's a little bit of a rambly answer, but I think through my career, because it's a little bit different, I'm a journalist, I'm a presenter, it's not the normal career that most people take, at least not when I was at school. I remember my careers advisor, she was like, 'That's fine, you can try and get to Formula One, but I think you should maybe try and go into banking because that's a really good job, it will pay well and you'll definitely have a better chance of getting into it. I don't want you to feel like you're never going to get to what your dreams are.' And I always remember that story and it was so silly really. But at that point, there was a really brief moment where I thought oh, maybe I should do that. And then my parents were like, no, don't be so silly.
So yeah, I think it's people really, you just need people around you to tell you that because sometimes you can go into this bubble of worrying about things, questioning yourself, not having the self-confidence. So that's really been the strength for me - people.
Kat: Yeah, that's so interesting what you say about career. I remember similar things from school; I think the creative industries can be quite rife, saying don't try and do that. I remember, similarly I wanted to be a writer and it was – there was a point when I was applying for all these different jobs and I couldn't get there. There was a point where a couple of people said, 'oh, maybe you should try something else if writing's not working out for you.' But as you said, when it's something you're really passionate about and you've got these people around you to support you to say, 'No, keep going, you can do this', you keep doing that work and well - you've done it and I've done it so it can be done! <laugh>.
Alex: I think what Lawrence said there about resilience coming from other people is important – resilience is modelled. So that's a really good point. And if you have people around you who are lifting those limits that are coming into your head… the careers advisors are terrible <laugh> at school, they're literally like ‘take the safe route’, just go and work in an office rather than, what are your dreams? What makes you feel good? You know? So I think it's amazing that you ignored all of that and that your parents ignored all of that because that's not the typical dynamic, and they were just like, go for it. I think that's a prime example of how resilient minds form resilient minds. So a lot of it is outside influences and the people around us.
Kat: That's a really helpful thing to note and a great thing for our listeners to take away - to be surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and have those thoughts about what you can do and know that you are capable. So we touched on different interpretations of resilience and some of the misconceptions, and Alex I'd love to come to you on this to talk a bit more about the misconceptions of resilience and perhaps anything that you notice when working with clients on the subject.
Alex: Yeah, so this is one of my pet hates because whenever I tell someone I'm a resilience coach, I get that emoji - you know, the arm pump - and it's all like 'Resilience is about being tough and gritting your teeth and getting through things.' And that leads to other narratives like hiding who you are because it doesn't fit with who you think you should be. Ignoring your feelings, ignoring self-knowing in favour of what other people think or other people's expectations. And then you get ideas around resilience, that it's got nothing to do with intuition because that's woo-woo, and dismissing self-care, self-compassion and openness as weak, indulgent or soft.
So these are all the narratives around resilience, which I find really troubling as if it's this very brittle thing that sits on the surface of everything else and you are using it to paper over the cracks and just hope that you can hang on long enough to get through this situation.
The analogy I often use with my clients is if you think about a tree in the forest - if you've got a tree that can sway in the winds, it's gonna survive a storm, but a rigid tree is gonna snap. So when the storms of life come for us, because they do all the freaking time, right? <laugh>, the last thing you want is to be rigidly holding onto this idea of, 'I need to be this person. I need to not show my feelings.' And to be so disconnected from yourself that you can't bend, you can't be flexible, you've got no resources.
So what I would love to get away from with resilience is the idea that it is about toughness. Sure, the outcome might be that you can get through a situation, but what happens to get you to that place of being adaptable, flexible, psychologically steady, all the things we associate with resilience, there's this whole other layer that we miss out. The things that actually make you like that.
Those are the things that we can't glamorise on Instagram, it's self-compassion. Nobody wants to see that as cool, no one wants to talk about that. But it is a superpower because it means that you can have a growth mindset. It means that you can get curious about failure, it means you can try again. It means that your inner critic isn't dominating everything that happens to you so that when something goes wrong you just shut down and hate yourself or blame other people.
So I think if we could get away from the idea of resilience as strong and tough and see the fact that it has two layers and that there's this softness that you need to be resilient - it's a soft strength and without that, you aren't…You can do it for a short length of time, but you can't paper over those cracks if you don't know who you are, you haven't put the time and effort into understanding your triggers, your past, and all the rest of it. And you don't have an understanding of what makes a resilient mindset or know how habits play a role in that. So I've kind of vomited everything out there, but that is something that I'm quite passionate about - this misconception of it and changing that because when we change it, it makes it accessible and it means it works and people can really use it and it is just life-changing.
Kat: Absolutely. I think that's why I was so excited to talk about this topic - to bring up some more awareness about what resilience really is. Because if you see it as that hard brittle thing, it can put you off it. It can make you think this isn't the right thing for me but when you realise it is the softness, then, as you said, it's more accessible.
What you said there really reminded me of a quote that I used, I think it was last year or the year before that I loved. It's from Virginia Woolf and it's, 'I am rooted but I flow' and it's from her book, I think it's The Waves... I'll have to double check that. It's from a brilliant book and it just reminded me of the analogy of the tree, you're rooted so you're connected with yourself, you're connected to where you are, rooted in your life where you are, but you are also able to flow, you are able to move along with whatever happens. That analogy really reminded me of that quote and it was a mantra that I lived by for a good year or two. So I love that.
Lawrence, I wonder, has any of that resonated with you in terms of the misconceptions and do you notice any of that coming up in the work that you do in the media?
Lawrence: I think what I really picked up from that is that people just don't know, like you said Alex, what you have to do before you get to that point. So I think people feel like they want to be resilient, but they don't know how to get to that point. I think, especially in the presenting industry - so I’ve spent the last couple of years moving from a writer to being a presenter, and you mentioned Instagram life – I used to think that being a presenter was very glamorous and everyone was happy all the time and everyone was friends with everyone. But actually when you spend time with presenters, obviously when they're not on camera, when they're in the office or we're having breakfast together, there's a real worry about whether they're good enough. I think when you are trying to play up to this perception that you've created in social media, it's actually quite exhausting. And you only see that if you work with the people who are in that industry.
I think that often I would see people that I've worked with as publicly very resilient. But when you then spend time with them away from the cameras and from social media, they're not so much. I think they find it very difficult to, and I'm starting to find this a little bit just to be able to separate out the two worlds. And it isn't just about being tough and trying to just ignore all the bad comments that you have, or if people have said horrible things about you or they've said that what you do isn't very good or they said that other people are better than you.
It's actually quite hard to put that behind you unless you are able to take a step back or you are able to speak to someone about it. Or if someone raises the point to you that it's not right... And you can find yourself going down into a deep hole. So, even though I used to think that I was quite good at being resilient, this is a slightly different world that I'm in now where the pressures are slightly different. So it's trying to find new tools that you can use to try and help you cope with it. Because the reality is, this isn't going to change, people are always going to have their opinions. You are always going to present yourself in a certain way because that is the way the brand might want you to present yourself - there's all of these things are always gonna happen. It's just whether or not you are able to – and if actually if you want to – find a way, to manage that and be on a slightly more level playing field.
So yeah, it's something I'm still working through because it's still a new world that I'm in. But it is something that I've really noticed, particularly when I've gone into presenting and broadcasting.
Kat: That's really interesting, especially about the social media side of things. I hadn't really considered that but that's a really good point. If you get sucked into that and try to show off a certain part of yourself, then it becomes hard, I imagine, to be authentic and speak up about when you are going through a difficult time or wanting to be a bit more vulnerable and whether or not that's appropriate as the face of a brand, that must be quite tough to navigate.
Lawrence: Yeah and I think that it just happens sometimes. I think you enjoy that really early period of your… you're building this brand that you're in, you are doing really well in the content that you're making. People are really happy with what you're making. You get fans who are saying that they love what you're doing and then it reaches this point in which the pressure gets to you because you have to consistently do that every single time. You have to keep up this narrative. I think that does start to form the longer that you do it and it's whether or not you're OK with not reading the comments and you're OK with what people have in other opinions that maybe don't necessarily agree with you. So it just takes a little bit of time I think, to adjust to that.
Kat: Definitely. That's the great thing about creating a really varied toolbox when it comes to resilience, there are so many different situations and there are things that are always going to come along that we're not expecting. Like, you didn't necessarily know that this was what was going to happen when you went into the presenting world, moving more from writing to presenting and yeah, it's a constant learning journey I guess. Alex, would you agree with that? Is it something we're constantly working on?
Alex: Yeah, I would, and I think that's actually one of the major things that we need to acknowledge is that once you achieve a certain level or a certain calmness, it's not going to stay that way because that isn't the way life happens. So it's not really about clinging onto that place but learning to adapt.
I think what was interesting in what Lawrence said is, to me, it was this message of not having control. You don't have control over how people are going to react to you, or what they're going to say about you. I heard this phrase the other day, it's like you thought you had control but all you ever had was anxiety <laugh>. It's this sense that we get anxious about things and we think we're somehow influencing them, but the freedom is in realising that you can't control anybody but you can control your reactions, you can control how you feel, how much you look after yourself, how much you up the self-nurturance when times get really, really tough. But yeah, the nature of resilience is to be flexible and adaptable, isn't it? So it's perfect for navigating everything that life throws at us.
Kat: Absolutely. I feel like I've noticed a real increase in people talking about resilience in the last couple of years. I've noticed it specifically since the pandemic. But I'm interested to know Alex, if you've noticed that and why you think it is becoming more front of mind. Is it just to do with the pandemic or do you think there are other elements at play?
Alex: I think self-awareness, mental health, all of that has come to the front of a lot of discussions including within businesses. I don't know how many corporates are just box-ticking when it comes to wellness and or whether they're actually investing, really investing in their people. The cynical side of me would go down one route there having been a lawyer, but I think anything to do with how we respond to the challenges in life is much more at the forefront of the conversation.
I fear with resilience becoming a more popular topic, that it's the tough gritting-your-teeth element of it that people are reaching for because things have been really difficult. They still are – like the cost of living crisis and everything, it's a really challenging time and I think it's also a time in which you're going to notice if you don't have much resilience because you will just keep getting knocked down with everything that's coming your way.
So I think those are some of the reasons why we're talking more about resilience and maybe just people are looking for different ways forward now because you know, if achievement hasn't worked for you in the past, if external validation hasn't worked for you in the past, then maybe you're coming around to the idea that something like resilience might be more of a driving force for making you feel better on a day-to-day basis and positively influencing your experience of life. So yeah, I'm glad people are talking about it because I think it's incredible, but I hope it's the right discussion. <laugh>. If that makes sense.
Kat: Definitely. Yeah, there's the risk of it going the other way, as you said, leaning more towards the kind of grittier, harder, brittle version of resilience and that's why it's important to get these conversations out there and talk to more people, so hopefully we can contribute a little bit to that <laugh>
Alex: As you said, the more we go down that hard gritty route, the less accessible it is.
Kat: Yeah, exactly. Lawrence, you've spoken a little bit about the media and presenting in that world. I'd be interested to know if you've noticed resilience coming up more in the sports world. I feel I've noticed more celebrities and athletes stepping back from things and saying I need to focus on my mental health, which feels like a really positive part of resilience, but you're obviously in the sports world a lot more than I am <laugh>, so yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Lawrence: Yeah, I think that's a really fair reflection Kat of what's happening in the sporting world, in Formula One, which is the sport that I work in mostly, I think it's a combination of people who are more open to talking about it publicly.
I think for a long time, particularly before Covid, I don't know whether Covid has made a difference or not, but before Covid people were a bit afraid to say anything if they were struggling, if they were finding whatever they were doing tough, whether it was personal or work life and it would just kind of just bumble along under the surface. Whereas I found now, and particularly even just last weekend at the British Grand Prix when I was there, the number of people who were able to talk to me about the fact that they were struggling or they've had a bad day and those people would just never have done that before.
So I do feel like people are, you know - someone said to me, 'It's OK to cry' and this person I never would've thought would ever have cried, but then they did that and they had a chat to someone else and they talked about it and you could just see that they were at a much better level at that point. So I think a) people are able to talk about it more and b) it's not as embarrassing I guess to talk about it if you need to, if you're struggling and therefore when you can get to that level beforehand when you're ready in yourself to become a bit tougher, or to deal with it in a better way, you've just got the tools ready to go. I think also once athletes start saying it, people think, 'Well if it's OK for them to say it, it's OK for me to say it.'
So I think it's the role models, we touched upon it a little bit with people right at the beginning, but role models play a really important part and I've really noticed that since I've worked in sport, that people really do associate themselves with other people – what they perceive to be successful people. I think that if they are able to talk about struggling or ways that they've found to cope with scenarios, then I think that does genuinely help people. So I think that's one thing I have noticed in Formula One and in sport, those two things really.
Kat: That's really interesting. Yeah, I do feel there's a lot more of an open… openness I guess with celebrities and athletes about how they're feeling and how things are affecting them. We've definitely noticed it at Happiful, writing pieces about different people and it does make a real difference when people are willing to open up and say, 'Look, I'm having a tough time, I just need some time to step back' and noting that that is a part of resilience is key I think. And that's something we need to possibly be talking about a bit more.
This podcast is obviously called Finding What Works, so I'd love us to move on to that, and Alex, I'd love for you to tell us a bit more about what it means to work when it comes to resilience. What does it look like when somebody has strong resilience?
Alex: I think on the outside it probably looks like they're navigating everything in life very effortlessly. But it's probably the internal world that I would rather focus on, because that's where true resilience comes from. And I would say it's things like having a strong connection to yourself, and being able to validate yourself. Obviously, we all need some external validation, but it's such a powerful thing to be able to validate yourself.
It looks like the courage to be open-hearted in relationships, to be vulnerable, to be able to connect with people and to face up to this, you know, the discomfort element of all of that. I think it's about self-awareness, being comfortable in your own skin, staying true to yourself and not abandoning yourself in moments that feel triggering. Believing in your goals and dreams and you know, really going for them like Lawrence described and not abandoning it when someone, an external authority figure or someone else says, you know what, you can't do that, can't do that.
So not allowing those limits to define you. I think also there's healthy boundaries, emotional intelligence, the ability to plan and progress and also obviously I mentioned compassion. I think compassion is like the fertiliser in a way for everything and without that, it's very difficult to be resilient. So all of those things together I think give you the ability to survive tough times, which is part of what this is about. But they also give you the ability to thrive, to set yourself up with a life that you will enjoy that is connected to your values, aligned with what you want and what you believe in. You know, rather than being sort of overcome by social conditioning or what other people think or staying stuck in the conditioning that you received as a child or something.
Kat: I think it's really helpful for people to know what it does mean to be resilient and understand all of those parts of it are what it is and it's not just what it looks like on the surface, as you said, it's the inner world, what's going on within. And I was wondering, we've talked a lot about tools and resources when it comes to resilience, could you share a bit more on that? So what tools can help people start to be more resilient? I know it's not so simple as ‘do this and then you'll become resilient’, but if there are any first steps you could share for people interested in working on it.
Alex: So it does very much depend on the individual and what their starting point is with resilience, because some people come to me with virtually none, so they need to be built up to the survival part and then others are looking to bust through the limits that they know that they're under.
So it is quite different, but I'd say a lot of it comes down to core beliefs, which is not a simple topic at all, but these are the beliefs that are formed within the first seven years of life. They're sitting in your unconscious basically guiding everything that you do. So, for example, if you've got a core belief that earning money is a struggle, you will probably miss all the opportunities to make money easily because of the way the mind works. There's something called the reticular activating system, which is fed by the core beliefs which will filter out anything that doesn't align with your core beliefs, even if that's good stuff. So getting to the heart of those is really important.
And then mindset, which is influenced by core beliefs, but really looking at how do you approach every day? If something bad happens, are you sitting there making assumptions about what someone else is thinking for example? So you're torturing yourself with something that isn't true <laugh> and are you able to stay flexible in situations that are hard or does your mindset immediately shut down and you're like, ‘Well that's it, I'm a failure, I'm just gonna give up’. So it's looking at how you respond to the challenges in life.
The other thing is habits. So habits, the things that we do every day, but also the automatic responses we have, so habitual thoughts. The failure example is a habitual thought in a failure situation might be 'I'm the problem' or there's something wrong with me and that's really harsh, there's not really anywhere you can go from that.
So changing the habitual thoughts, changing the habitual behaviours and then there are other habits like the things that support development. So do you get outside every day? It's amazing how much of our brain health and our mental health can really be influenced by going outside, doing some exercise, eating well and drinking enough water. So there are those habits as well.
So I would say that core beliefs/mindset are part of the same thing. And then habits… and I just want to say there's this myth on Instagram and social media that it takes 21 days to form a habit and it does not. There's all sorts of research being done on this. It can take anywhere from two days to 365 days and there are loads of factors. So if you have tried to form a habit in 21 days and not managed to, it's not because you can't, it's just because the data is wrong. <laugh>
Kat: Thank you for busting that myth. I had no idea. I thought it was 21 days, but that's really helpful to know because if somebody's trying to form a habit and it's not worked, they might then become self-critical and say, 'Oh I failed in doing that.' I think habits in general, that's such a good thing to mention, it's not something I really thought about when it came to resilience, but it's such a good point.
Alex: Well it governs everything we do, all we do every day is habitual behaviours. I think there's a statistic that 80% of our thoughts are repeated from the day before. So if you start changing those habitual thoughts even just a little bit every day, it can make a huge difference to what comes next.
Just on the habits thing – I just want to mention there are lots of things that can influence it and if you are someone who has a cycle, for example, a menstrual cycle and you try and start something new on the first day of your bleed, it's just not going to happen. Whereas if you start it on day 10, it is going to make it much easier. So it's worth taking all of this into account when you are trying to make changes in your life, not being hard on yourself and actually looking at the facts of this stuff and not what the narrative is on... I keep criticising Instagram, I love Instagram, it's a great place, but it's good to challenge what's put out there, I think.
Kat: It definitely is. Those are really helpful points because there are so many influences on our lives, how we're feeling, our energy levels, what we feel capable of that day and it's important for us to recognise that. Thank you, Alex.
So, Lawrence, in a similar vein, I'd love to know if there are any practices, tools or techniques that you found helpful when it comes to building resilience for yourself.
Lawrence: I think a takeaway for me from what Alex was just saying is that, for a long time, I didn't just step away for a few minutes and ask all of those questions that Alex was talking about, considering all of the things that you do, any of the decisions that you make, the habits that you have, the approaches to life that you take. I just never really took five minutes to think about why I was doing it, to even notice I was doing it.
That's one tool that I've started to do, especially when I'm away because when we travel and when we work, we do like 15, 16-hour days and I think it can be quite easy to just get hurried away in the moment and you go from one task to another task to another task and not take a few minutes. I found that if you just give yourself predetermined breaks during the day to step away, ideally from everyone really, and either use that opportunity to assess what you've done already, how you felt those things have gone, whether you'd do anything differently and how you want to make changes going forward, or just take five minutes and think about something else completely and let yourself get away and give yourself a mental break from it.
So that's definitely something that I've done over the last year or so and it's made a big difference. The other thing that I've really tried to do is try and look at signals for when other people might be struggling. So being able to tell if colleagues are acting differently or the things they're saying or the phrases they're using have changed and trying to identify that so you can talk to them quietly about it afterwards and see if that can help because often we work in group dynamics, so I think the more you can help individuals, actually the better I will ultimately feel because then the team environment will be better.
So it's trying to work out lots of different things at the same time. So that's one thing I've really tried to do because also when I'm looking out for things in other people, I'm thinking about the way that I'm being or acting or thinking or doing. And so it works both ways really. So I think, particularly in our unusual, quite high-pressure environment – I know it's not an important job, but it is a work environment which is high pressure – trying to notice things that I found have been quite important to help me cope with doing it but also try to help the people around me cope with it as well.
Kat: I love that and that's a really lovely thing to be able to think about, to be like, it's not just about you and your perspective and your experience but also those around you and recognising that it's for the greater good. It's a sense of community care really, making sure those around you are OK and in a good place because then they can reflect that back to you. They can check in with you and see if you're OK. Yeah, that's a really lovely thing to point out. Thank you.
So Alex, we have mentioned this beforehand, but I'd love to hear a bit more about any certain demographics that you find particularly struggle with resilience.
Alex: Oh, there are so many different factors as to… a lot of it depends on your childhood, was it modelled to you, what resources have you been given growing up, what habitual thoughts? But I would say, and this is a big generalisation, I have found that because of the element of softness that is required for resilience, I often find that men do struggle with it, which is kind of counter to what the narrative is that men are the strong ones.
But in a way, what Lawrence was saying about only having recently gotten into the habit of self-inquiry and self-understanding and self-discovery, that's something, you know - women tend to journal, if you suggest it to a man, a lot of men would turn their nose up. Again, that's a huge generalisation and I know that's not everybody, but I would say I have noticed that it is harder for men to allow self-compassion in, because it doesn't fit with the narratives around masculinity in a lot of cases.
There is all of this tension around the problems that a lot of men are having at the moment in terms of feeling isolated or not having access to mental health resources or feeling lonely. And a lot of this is kind of being blamed on feminism, on women, on a quest for equality when actually it's all coming from these patriarchal habits which create the messaging that you can't be kind to yourself because that's not what men do. You can't cry, don't talk about your problems.
But I mean men like Lawrence are the living embodiment of the fact that this is really changing and you know, the fact that you are creating this caring community and culture around you where you are actually looking out for signs of other people having a low resilience day as well is hopefully the way that we are moving.
I'm talking about, you know, statistics around male suicide, which is – I'm not an expert on this so I'm not gonna pretend to be – but I do know that suicide involves a lot of shame. Shame is something that thrives when people don't talk about it. And talking about your feelings is something that we don't encourage in men. And I think a lot of women don't encourage it in their men either because of internalised misogyny.
So I had a client recently who was saying, ‘I was talking to my friends the other day and you know, we just had a bit of a cry and we shared what was going on and my mate was just like, I feel so much better and I don't really know why.’ And I was like, this is what women have been doing for a long time.
So I think access to that side of being a man is what will make this more accessible for that particular demographic. But I'm just loathed to generalise because I know that it's not the same for everybody and I don't want to confuse men and the patriarchy because obviously they're not the same – one's a system – but yeah, tricky conversation. I do think that softness and self-compassion and allowing men to have that and also the self-awareness side of it would make this better.
Kat: Absolutely. Lawrence, obviously very interested to hear if any of this resonates with you.
Lawrence: Yeah, I think as a society, and like you said Alex, it is a little bit of a generalisation, but I think it's true. I do think that men struggle more to talk about feelings, I guess ultimately, and that's what it is, isn't it? It's just being able to open up about it. But I think the more - going back to the role models idea - the more that we see people that we aspire to - if they talk openly about things... there's a driver called Lando Norris who drives from McLaren and he's been very open about his mental health issues from a very early age and since he's entered motorsport and he works for the charity Mind and he's been very open about the struggles that he's had coming through that, how he's really hard on himself, but he's acknowledged that and he's talked about the tools that he's used to try and get around that.
And I just think the very fact that he's talking about it has meant that people within the sport are talking about it. I think because of that, I know it sounds very simple, but it's had quite a big impact very quickly. There are people who work for other teams, other drivers who are more comfortable talking about it. People who work in the media and marketing and communications and commercial all within that sport, because obviously you tend to follow that sport, so you'll probably listen to things that Lando says - because he's done that, it's given people the confidence maybe to do it.
Even if they don't publicly say that they're doing it, even if they do what Alex just said, one of her clients did, and talk to their mate about it or have a cry or open up a little bit, I think that's a good thing. Even if we don't know what's happening, because that will hopefully have a domino effect on the other people that are around them. But also the perception that if someone says something, if people believe it's the right way, they won't then make a snide comment about it. So even if they don't actively support it, but they reduce the way that they comment on it in a negative way, I think that's a step forward.
I think generally people are afraid of what people will think of them if they open up, I guess because it makes them what they perceive to be as looking weak. But I do genuinely think that is changing, particularly in the sport that I work in and I hope just generally as well.
Kat: It's really interesting to hear, especially in the specific sport, how it's changing and how hopefully that can have a ripple effect as well. We've touched on it a little bit there about the steps forward for that demographic and supporting that, but Alex, is there anything you think anyone around people who are struggling with resilience can do to support them? I'm thinking it's probably going to be, ‘make a safe space for them to feel they can open up’ but yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Alex: Yeah, I think it is, it's allowing people to share because I think shame is such a horrible, pointless emotion. It - I literally cannot, I just... It's a horrible thing to experience. It has no function and it thrives in isolation and in the dark and it can really take over as anyone who's experienced it will know. It can completely take over your thought processes and narratives and make you very, very stuck.
So I think part of it is what Lawrence said earlier, which is looking for signs of change in people, people being more withdrawn or avoiding questions about feelings. You know, if you ask someone how they are - and we all have a habit of saying, oh, I'm fine, but if someone was previously talking about feelings and is now withdrawing, then that might be a problem.
Making space to talk about something like shame for example – because as soon as you bring shame into the light, as soon as it's met with compassion or empathy, it just disperses, and it sounds simple and a bit pointless, but that can change everything.
It can really suddenly just shine a light on a problem that felt completely unmanageable, like it was going to ruin your life and like there is no way out and then you share it and someone's like, oh, me too. We know the strength of that phrase and just allowing people to be who they are without being judged to share their problems and to be human, and not have to live up to some externally defined standard.
Kat: Yeah, I love that. That's a really lovely way of putting it. Thank you. Before we wrap up this conversation, I'd love to hear a bit more about resilience coaching, what that involves and how that can potentially support people if they are struggling with this.
Alex: Coaching, for anyone who doesn't know, is different to therapy in that – therapy is also extremely valuable – but tends to stay focused on the past. Coaching and resilience coaching is very practical. It's focused on action. So what we do is we look at what's coming up for you right now and that might involve things from the past, but we'd look at how is that resonating in your life right now. And crucially, resilience coaching is all about what do I need to do to move past this. So it's about action in the present to create a different future.
And the wonderful thing about resilience coaching is it's a series of small steps. So we take a big, real stretch goal and we break it down and you do all these small steps and then you get to the end of the process and it's a bit like climbing a mountain. You've been looking down at your feet and you turn back and you're like, my gosh, I've climbed the whole thing. And there's so much power in those small steps because a lot of people think change is one seismic moment when everything shifts and it's just not, it's the small things that you do every day that are different.
So with resilience, as I said, people come with different levels of resilience. It's about looking at what's getting in the way of that, which might be self-sabotage, imposter syndrome, a really strong inner critic, that kind of thing. Looking at what we can build up together, how we can remove limits, how we can get into the bits of the subconscious that are creating limits or making life difficult and then creating a plan. It's very practical.
It's a robust set of tools and habits for you going forward where you just start to see your life differently and things don't knock you flat. And you can start to imagine a future which may have been under a ceiling before, but now there are no limits. And that's the pinnacle of it, is when the client is suddenly like, ‘I didn't know I'd put that limit on myself and I've now removed it and now I can do absolutely anything and I know how.’
Kat: I mean, that sounds amazing and I love what you're saying about the small steps leading to being at the top of the mountain, because that's so true. It's about staying on course, taking those small steps and then taking the time to stop and look around and be like, ‘Wow, this is where I am now’. So for anyone listening who wants to learn more about resilience coaching and yourself, where can they connect with you online?
Alex: So I have a website, www.shore-coaching.com and you can also find me on Instagram at @AlexShoreCoaching. And also on Life Coach Directory. And I've just started a TikTok, but it's very small. It's the same handle @AlexShoreCoaching.
Kat: Amazing. Thank you so much. Lawrence, any final thoughts on this topic? And also can you share where people can connect with you if they would like to?
Lawrence: Final thought is I've learned loads in this podcast, so it's been lovely to hear from you, Alex, really, because I think that while I've tried to instigate little things in life and try to do things, I haven't really delved enough into it and to find some of the tools that you've talked about or even just the things that I might look out for now, going forward. So I found it really interesting. And you can follow me across all socials on @LawroBaretto.
Kat: Well, thank you both so much for your time today. It's been a really enlightening conversation. And for anyone listening, if you want to learn more about coaching, you can head to lifecoach-directory.org.uk and make sure you tune in next week because we are gonna be doing the exhale episode, which is where we'll be sharing some prompts on resilience to help you dive into this topic a little bit more. But yes, until then, please take care.