Run, Run, Run as Fast as You Can, Just Don't Get Stuck!

In my line of work I am privileged to find people sharing parts of their narrative with me - and sometimes in unexpected places at unexpected times.

Purchasing something in a retail store and favouring one leg slightly due to the fact that my mind thinks I'm younger than my body does; hence having slightly overdone the exercise, I was struck by how knowledgeable the man in the store seemed to be about all things running. We got to talking and I shared with him my hunch that he had had a serious background in running.

He told me somewhat sheepishly of his grand dreams as a young man, his track and field achievements as a middle distance runner and that he had been training for the Olympics when "it" happened. "It" was an open man hole at the old Optus Oval one dark rainy night that broke his ankle and shattered his career dreams.

I asked him of course how he remembered coping with the reality of the situation. He said he just had to pick himself up (literally and figuratively), dust himself off and establish himself elsewhere. In any case,he said,running at that level was an incredibly selfish pursuit and not being able to continue forced him to take a different path, reconnect with friends and loved ones and eventually "just move on".

I asked him if he remembered experiencing any depression. Many former elite athletes have told me they struggled in retirement to cope with the lack of structure and perpetual goal setting. He reflected for a moment and then said he didn't exactly remember feeling depressed afterwards but it was 22 years until he went to athletics meet again!

This is a fascinating story in resilience, getting stuck and the "shattering of assumptions" that can occur for people with any big loss. It is also a story that underscores the role of resilience and optimism in getting people back on track.

How many people in our organisation are still consumed with disappointment after things haven't gone their way? How empathic and skilled do we have to be as change leaders for those people and how hard must we try to nurture our children for those who have them, into some degree of tease tolerance, emotional stability and flexibility in setting goals and how to get there.

We see every day that some people have it and some just don't. But our role as change leaders, consultants, HR professionals and as parents is to help people find within themselves those things they can do, build bridges between the successes they have had in the past and the possibilities of the future by helping restore the key elements they have lost; namely comfort, control, competence and confidence and to do that mostly by coaching rather than counselling, and asking rather than telling.

It is about understanding that while life isn't always fair, there is a lot worth living for and aspiring to.Whether we call it coping skills, resilience or emotional intelligence, surely this is one of, if not the most, valuable competencies in a rapidly changing complex (i.e."raplex") environment. I believe we have to develop it and we have to recruit for it and in so doing, everybody wins.
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