I always experience an internal moment of awkwardness when I hear the word “Resilient” in a professional context.
It is ubiquitous in the corporate world at the moment; resilience, mental toughness, grit.
I have some amazing colleagues and friends in senior, high pressure roles, and “resilient” really is a word that describes them well. They recover quickly, they withstand difficult conditions, they bounce back into shape.
Years of managing a predisposition to depression has made me suspect that I am not, in fact, resilient.
I would be, except for this one problem: my capability exceeds my capacity.
My Capability exceeds My Capacity. Let me explain.
I know that I am CAPABLE of great things.
I’m clever; I can learn anything I put my mind too.
I’m conceptual; I can take a plethora of seemingly disjointed information and formulate it into something comprehensible that resonates with people, be it in a workshop or as part of a strategy document.
I’m articulate; I can express myself in both writing and speaking in a way that touches people and gently provokes them to think.
I’m influential; I can build rapport just as easily with the factory worker on the shop floor as the CEO.
I know I’m CAPABLE of all this and more.
It’s my bloody CAPACITY that lets me down.
Capacity: the total amount that can be produced.
So, imagine a person’s capacity is equivalent to 100% of battery on your smart phone.
In my early 20’s, I figured that over a typical week, half my battery life would go toward my career (50%) and the other half would go toward my personal life (50%).
I thought that my battery would last at least 3 or 4 days, so that as long as I got a good rest and some ‘me time’ on the charger twice a week, I’d be fine.
But I soon learnt that when you manage a mental health challenge, that is not how it pans out.
Whatever the reason, I’ve learnt that I seem to have a pre-disposition to depression. Every few years, it’s like my brain/body starts to malfunction and my depression symptoms begin.
I’ve also learnt, though, that I am the master of my own destiny. Depression is not a visitor that controls me, something I have to ‘accept’ and sit through until she decides to move on.
No, as discussed in my earlier articles, depression is a bus ride. If I recognise my early symptoms soon enough, I can get off the bus and get myself back on the bus to wellness.
But here’s the thing; being master of my own mental health takes quite a bit of my battery life.
Over a typical week, 10% of my battery life has to go just on making sure I get good sleep; 8-10 hours a night ideally.
20% has to go on making sure I get exposure to sunlight; get my hands in the soil; get on the treadmill…participate in the range of strategies that both research, and my personal experience, show help maintain wellness (strategies which I teach in my BrainSweet workshops).
40% of my battery life goes on being a mum, and wife, and home-maker. Making sure I am raising children who feel loved, and supported, and listened to. Creating a home environment that is safe, and welcoming, and nurturing.
Which leaves 30% of my battery life for my career. And as anyone who has worked with me knows, that 30% is given at 100%….everything I do, I do with energy, and commitment, and excellence.
But if I am to stay well, my career really can only consume 30% of my total battery life.
And as for only needing to charge every 3 or 4 days….what rubbish!! Every day I need to factor in time on that charger.
So…back to my original dilemma.
Does only having 30% of my total battery life available for work mean I am not resilient?
Do all you “Resilients” out there find you can devote 50%? 60% 80% of your energy to your career, and still not run out of charge?
I don’t know the answer.
I recover too, but not quickly. I withstand difficult conditions too, but when I’m unwell they’re in my head, my heart, and my body. I bounce back into shape too, but it may take a while and I may be a slightly different shape than I was previously.
You could say that my quota of resilience all gets used up in managing my mental health.
Maybe I’ll invent a new word. I may not be resilient in the corporate sense of the word. But I’m resilient in the “maintains mental health” sense of the word.
Resilimental. Adjective. The ability to recover (eventually); to withstand difficult conditions (largely in your own head), and to bounce back into (a new and interesting) shape.
I can live with that.