Radical Resilience - Why and How to Build it With Your Clients! | By Delaney Tosh CPCC, PCC

With 4 Steps to Build Resilience for High Performance & Work/Life Fulfillment

As this recent December holiday season approached, I realized that everyone in my immediate circle (friends, clients, myself) was facing an excess of challenges. In particular, a woman I know had just taken on a challenging leadership role that included a longer commute. She had been brought in to 'turn the ship around' and her typical day now includes putting out fires, sometimes literally!

While satisfying in many ways, her work is draining as she learns a new role in a new environment and tries to bring her new team together under challenging circumstances. Then crisis struck at home. Just when she was looking forward to her time off over the Christmas break, two of her family members fell critically ill requiring out-of-town hospitalization in different hospitals. She spent her holiday commuting daily in winter conditions between hospitals and home, while trying to create a happy holiday and sense of normality for her children.

Work-Life Challenges

The daily reality for many leaders and clients can involve juggling an ever-increasing amount of complex, high priorities at work while managing the demands of family life. The stressors add up while the sense of fulfillment can easily diminish, along with the energy for the usual challenges and responsibilities of life. Layer onto this those out-of-left-field challenges that knock us off balance.

If we are already running on empty, big life stressors like a family crisis, new job or corporate merger can completely deplete our capacity for even the smallest of challenges, let alone leading a team and running a family.

Now layer onto that our own thoughts, habits and beliefs. Examples include wanting to be the perfect parent, have a beautiful home, be the renowned executive, deliver the perfect presentation, and measure up to the 'Joneses' who seem to have it all, plus all those unique ways we have to beat ourselves up. Let's face it, in many ways we are not our own best allies. And when we're giving our time and energy to everyone else we tend to forgo our own needs for sleep, nourishment and regeneration. We become unkind to ourselves.

Returning to the woman I describe above, we might ask what transpired when she returned to work following her stressful holiday period. Was she able to handle the challenges of her new leadership role with aplomb and continue to engage her team in their vision? Or did she find herself more irritable and reactive and less connected?

The answer depends on the depth of her 'well of resilience' leading up to the crises - and the current commitment she is making to her energy renewal.

Make Radical Resilience the First Priority!

Making radical resilience a first priority requires a shift in how we think of energy.

I wholeheartedly believe that only focusing on our management of time and stressors is misguided. I believe we will be more fulfilled and better able to sustain optimal performance if we focus on how we manage our energy. All of us have the same amount of time available and stressors are not something we can avoid. However, why do some people seem to thrive regardless of the pressures and others burn out?

How We Manage Our Energy Shapes Our Resilience

Your coaching clients may be wondering, "How do I return to and sustain my energy so I can thrive under pressure and feel I'm operating at my best?"

The people that thrive manage their energy in ways that keep their 'wells of resilience' full.

When our energy output exceeds our energy inputs we can become chronically exhausted. This leads to impatience and reactivity at work, and a lack of energy for the second shift of home and family life. Too exhausted to enjoy our downtime when we have it, we may choose non-regenerative activities (like binge-watching television) and are too worried about our responsibilities to gain a sense of renewed energy.

How Deep is your 'Well of Resilience'?

Our thoughts, behaviours and emotions all have an energy consequence which can be negative or positive, depleting or renewing. Think of resilience as a well. When the going gets tough during your day you tap into your 'well or resilience'. When kids are cranky in the morning, the traffic is slow and you're running late, you tap into this well to handle the stress. And if your 'well of resilience' is deep and full, you quickly return to a sense of calm and clarity as you arrive for your work day. But whether you can do this depends on how you've been maintaining your well - balancing your energy output against replenishing inputs.

As the day progresses, various demands require your energy, thus drawing down your 'well of resilience'. As the days go by and the stressors mount, if you do not have energy habits that refill your well, and if your well is not deep, you run the risk of running your well dry - resulting in burnout.

What is available when your 'Well of Resilience' is deep and replenished?

  • Contemplation and reflection
  • Intention
  • Planning
  • Calmness and clarity
  • Renewal and invigoration
  • Confidence and capacity
  • Fulfillment
  • Meaningful connection

What results when your 'Well of Resilience' is depleted?

  • Impulsiveness
  • Fearfulness
  • Reactivity
  • Impatience or rigidity
  • Negativity and resentment
  • Overburden and exhaustion
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Disengagement

What does Radical Resilience include?

We think of resilience as our ability to cope and to rebound quickly. But I believe a more radical approach is to consider how resilience is dependent on the balance of our energy renewal versus daily energy drains in four main realms - physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual.

The following are 4 key areas of focus suggested by current health and neuroscience literature for the renewal of energy to support resilience:

1) Physical Energy:

  • Healthful sleep habits
  • Cardio and strength fitness routines
  • Regular healthful nourishment and hydration (water)
  • Regular renewal breaks throughout the day

2) Cognitive Energy:

  • Mindfulness practice*
  • Visualization
  • Nourishment and sleep habits that supports optimal brain activity
  • Mentally preparing self

3) Emotional Energy:

  • Engaging inner sage while recognizing inner critic*
  • Healthful sleep habits to support optimal recovery and hormone activity
  • Bust limiting beliefs and engage positivity
  • Mindfulness practice*

4) Spiritual Energy:

  • Connection - cultivating a sense of connection with others and to what is meaningful, including:
    • Values
    • Vision
    • Purpose

Here's a Four-Step Approach to Support Clients in Radical Resilience:

Step 1: Invite

Invite clients to consider energy as a high priority for management, and explore how they currently enhance and deplete their energy. It can be helpful to consider a typical day and how the energy flows throughout that day's activities. Finally, consider when it would be beneficial to engage in energy renewal.

Wheel of Resilience

Step 2: Envision

Who do they get to be and how does life feel, when they are fully engaged and their 'well of resilience' is deep and replenished regularly? What does a fulfilling career and life include? The clearer their vision, the more powerful this step is.

As an example, for myself, a fulfilling and resilient life includes feeling eager to engage in my work, and happy to come home with positive energy to spare for family time, chores and renewal activities. My workday has a sense of flow to it with time for ideation, planning, key actions and energy recovery (e.g. after long meetings). Family time is fun, as are my fitness activities. It includes having clear boundaries, a sense of accountability and feeling aligned with goals and values. I'm creative and my interactions are meaningful, respectful and supportive.

Step 3: Explore

If clients are to attain their vision of who they get to be when at their best, fully engaged self, what could balancing their energy drains and recovery look like ?

I may use a balance wheel similar to the Wheel of Life which I call the Wheel of Resilience. I use this to help clients assess current resilience building strategies on a scale of 0 to 10 and then determine what small actions would support them in increasing balance in each category. The goal is to have them feel a sense of renewed energy, calm, joy and connection.

I then follow this up with creating a sense of motivation and commitment.

Step 4: Reality Check

Get curious about how your client's beliefs, thoughts and habits might be limiting them. Bust through these limiting beliefs and thoughts that drain your client's energy and might be driving habits that deplete their 'well of resilience'.

Examples include:

  • Perfectionism
  • A "go-go-go!" mentality
  • An inner critic voice that tells them they are not good enough
  • Habitually choosing TV or Internet surfing for rest
  • Choosing junk food and stimulants for quick energy
  • Working through lunch
  • A "sleep-is-for-sissies" attitude
  • Believing their needs come last
  • Not asking for support
  • Fear of delegating

Finally, invite a connection to their inner sage*. What are new and more supportive beliefs they could adopt? How could they reframe inner thoughts to better support positivity and connection?

Wrap up:

Step 4 is likely an ongoing exploration with your clients as you continue to check in on their resilience building commitments and discover the resistance and hurdles that show up.

Giving ourselves the gift of self-kindness as we intentionally deepen our 'wells of resilience' results in an increased capacity to live more open-heartedly, to connect more meaningfully and to engage and inspire others with our positive energy.

And a parting question for my brilliant colleagues: what energy renewal habits would love your attention this season? Share yours in the comments below!

* Here is some further reading material:

Engaging The Inner Sage:

Busting through limiting beliefs:

Mindfulness for resilience:

Delaney Tosh Headshot

Contributing Author:

Delaney Tosh, CPCC, PCC, coaches women who want to radiate with confidence and thrive as leaders. She helps her clients navigate the hurdles unique to women in leadership and also delivers the Resilience at Work® Toolkit and Resilience at Work® Leader Scale, helping leaders and teams create optimal performance through resilience. She is co-creator of the Phoenix-Hearted Woman retreats and webinars, designed to help women build resilience and strengthen their foundation for being heard and making a difference in the world. Connect with Delaney at SquarePeg Leadership or on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Delaney & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client Multitasking by Creativa Images via Shutterstock


    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Dana, Delaney is a great orginal thinker! We love her articles and I'm sure she'll be glad to know you enjoyed her article and ideas! Warmly, Emma-Louise


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