Think about what re-charges your batteries. Everything in the living world needs time to rest and replenish — including us. But often, when we are feeling really overburdened, we can forget this fact. We can drive ourselves so hard that we just keep going until we run out of energy, or even, burnout. If you notice yourself getting into this habit, try asking yourself this question, “What am I doing today that re-charges my batteries?” The simple fact of asking may well be what it takes to remind you that you need to do this. Re-charging your batteries doesn’t have to be big or take long. It’s often the simplest things that restore us and refresh our energy. For my client Caroline for example, it was remembering to take a half hour lunch break each day — sitting with the sun on her face, for others it can be a walk around the block between meetings. What could it be for you?
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Becky Hall.
Becky Hall has worked for over 20 years with leaders and executive teams as a business consultant and coach. She specialises in helping leaders build gravitas, presence and inner confidence, and she has designed and run numerous resilience, leadership and change programmes for businesses to help them shape their cultures. Her new book, The Art of Enough; 7 Ways to Build a Balanced Life and a Flourishing world explores how we can build resilience and find the balance and boundaries we all need for ourselves and for our world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
It’s great to be with you. I have coached literally hundreds of senior leaders and teams over the last twenty years. I am passionate about supporting my busy clients to build their resilience so that they can move from striving to thriving, and over the course of my career I have gone in search of training and research so that I can do that well. I have picked up lessons from behavioral psychology, neuro-biology, yoga, systems thinking and…well…life that I apply now in my work. What not a lot of people know about me is that before I became a coach, I trained and worked as an actor for eight years. This in many ways was the bedrock to my career now because it taught me so much about empathy, presence, courage and resilience.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
That’s such a hard question because as someone who has worked for myself my whole career, I’ve had so many rich and varied experiences.
I’m going to tell you one from early on, when I’d decided to move on from being an actor and embrace my love of facilitating, training and coaching. I’d been accepted onto a master’s post-graduate program, and needed to find the funds to pay for it. Back then, I didn’t have a lot of spare income having worked as a touring actor for the past eight years, so I needed to find some work. It was a long time ago (pre-digital), so I went to my local library and copied down the addresses of twenty consultancy businesses and wrote to them, offering my services as a ‘speaker trainer’ who could help executives develop their presentation style. A few days later I got a call from one of them telling me that their global CEO was coming to London from the US to speak at a major conference, and they were looking for someone to take up residency in their London office for ten days to offer speaker training to all the UK execs who were presenting. The fee for this work was exactly the same amount as the fee for my master’s program!
What I learned from this story is that sometimes in the face of a big challenge the best thing to do is take a risk, put yourself out there and trust in the abundance of life.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I am one of thousands of leadership and life coaches in the world, and I love being part of this network of professionals.
I take a holistic approach to supporting people to flourish, and I have had a massively diverse amount of training, professional and life experiences. I’m naturally curious and love learning and I’m passionate about bringing what I’ve learned to life for people and making it really practical.
For example, one of the things that I love to do is write scripts for my team of actors to perform so that they can bring the theories that underpin what I’m talking about to life for my clients. This is especially useful for teaching about leadership behavior and impact on others. I love to weave together all of my life’s learning — from acting, corporate life, coaching and my own experience — and as a result I can bring together a lot of influences to help people to flourish.
I think my approach to combining body, mind and spirit in my work definitely sets me apart from some other coaches.
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?
Gosh, so many, but the person I’m going to mention here is my good friend and fellow coach, Keeley Addison. I first met Keeley when I joined a coaching and consultancy firm nine years ago, and we worked together on several projects with clients. From the outset, Keeley believed in what I had to offer, and she and I developed a great rapport where we could share design and delivery ideas and build on them to make our work really sparkle. Over time, this relationship deepened into a really close friendship — because when you’ve got someone’s back in the way that she and I do — it makes things possible that you might never have the confidence to do alone.
Since we met, I’ve set up my own business and had my first book published, all with her unfailing support. We still share ideas, learning and good practice, but more than that, we share our vulnerabilities and support each other through good times and bad. That is worth its weight in gold and I’m so grateful for it!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I define resilience as the ability to acknowledge when things are tough and to find strategies, support and practices to keep moving forwards anyway. People who are able to reflect and learn from the difficult times are those that really build their resilience — noticing what was hard, how they felt, how they responded, and what supported them to make it through.
I don’t believe that resilience is a static state or something that some people are born with and others just don’t have. I think it is something we can all learn, which is why I use the term resilience practice. We all need to have strategies in place for when things are hard, and the more we practice these, the better equipped we are to manage when the going gets tough.
The key practice to build our resilience is to get into the habit of noticing how we are. That’s:
- Notice how we are thinking — what are the voices in our heads? What’s our mindset.
- Notice how we are feeling — what is our emotional state?
- Notice how our body is reacting — what is our breath doing? How is our heart beating? What are our energy levels like?
Once we are super tuned at noticing we can follow the four-stage path to building resilience, which is:
Notice — reflect — choose — re-set.
The most resilient people I know, aren’t people who power on through pretending things are ‘just fine’, they are people who recognize and acknowledge that they are going through challenging times, and find practices and people to support them, even while they may be feeling vulnerable.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I think that courage and resilience are really similar for us internally. They both relate to our sense of self-worth and our inner confidence. The definition of courage for me is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. We are all scared to do things, and those who have courage are those who have strategies to support them to face their fears and move forwards. In that sense I think that courage is very similar to resilience. If we can notice what happens to us when we are scared — to our thoughts, our feelings and our physiology — then we can start to create strategies that will help us to harness our fear and let us do scary things anyway. In the same way, we can build practices that give us inner confidence, which makes us feel more resilient.
For me, another aspect of resilience is how well we are able to be intentional about our boundaries and what we need to resource us, day by day and week by week. It takes courage to hold boundaries and to say ‘no’ to some things — but when we do, we build our resilience.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
The first person who springs to mind for me is the great, American poet and novelist, Maya Angelou. Maya experienced huge suffering and challenge — poverty, racism, sexual assault. And rather than being defeated by these experiences, she used them to shape how she showed up in the world. Far from suppressing or hiding her experiences, she wrote about them, and in doing so robbed them of the power of shame they might have had over her. By sharing her life story she re-claimed the narrative about what happened to her; by reflecting on how she survived, she made herself stronger and built her inner confidence and encouraged others to do the same. I love her quote that says, “You alone are enough, you have nothing to prove to anybody”. That is an amazing example of a great resilience mindset!
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Do you know, in my life, I think that the ‘someone’ who has told me that something was impossible has most frequently been me! I have worked hard to tame the inner voice in my head that tells me ‘you can’t do that!’ or ‘who do you think you are!’.
I have just written my first book — something that I’ve been wanting to do for seven years — and it was just two years ago that I had a good hard look at my inner critic and worked hard to invite other voices into my head that were more encouraging and hopeful. I feel like I haven’t completely silenced that critical voice, but I have certainly turned the volume down — and my goodness it feels better! Now when she shows up, I can say — “Do you know what, I wrote my book anyway, so pipe down!”
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Yes — a lot. As an actor in my twenties, I learned the hard way that life was full of setbacks and I had to get used to feeling disappointed about not getting a job, but carrying on auditioning all the same. More recently, in the financial crash of 2008 I was co-running a consultancy firm and we lost all our contracts in the space of six weeks. We had to shut our small office and make all our staff redundant. That felt terrible — all that my business partner and I had worked to achieve — including an amazing team — shut down in the space of two months.
It took a while to lick my wounds — something that I now know from all my research into resilience is an important stage. And then I slowly began to reach out to friends and contacts and started to build my client list back up again. I made sure that I was clear about what I had learned — the mistakes we had made and the things that I was grateful that we had done well — so that the next time I formed my own business a few years later, I did things a little differently. I love the phrase ‘post traumatic growth’ and for me, that’s what this experience taught me; even though things can be awful — traumatic even — we can learn from them. That’s what resilience is for me.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
As I child I was brought up to have a go at things even if they were hard or scary, and I do think that this has helped me throughout my life. I was also taught that things don’t necessarily come easy — you have to work at things like learning a musical instrument or a language — but they really do get better with practice. So that has shaped my approach to life ever since. One more thing that really helps, reach out to people and accept help when it is offered. This can feel like the hardest thing, but I think that learning to trust people and allow them to support you is a great sign of resilience.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Get really good at listening to the voices in your head. Many of us have a strong critical voice in our heads — that voice that just fills us with doubt about our abilities or shouts “you can’t do that!” or other similarly limiting statements just as we’re about to do something challenging. I liken this voice to that person at a dinner party who just monopolizes the conversation — takes all the airspace and makes everyone listen to them. The way to counter this, is to invite other voices in. Imagine asking one of the other dinner party guests what they think. You can go further and imagine asking them, “is that how you see it? Do you have a different slant on it?” When we offer ourselves different perspectives in our mind, we can begin to free ourselves from the tyranny of our inner critic. The more you can practice this, the more you’ll start to hear from other voices and less from the dominant negative one.
- Listen to your energy levels and be kind to yourself. Resilience isn’t just about mindset — sometimes it’s about how we feel in our physiology. Our bodies are really good at telling us what we need to know and getting used to tuning into what they are trying to tell us is so useful. One of the key parts of being resilient is acknowledging the truth of where we are at in the present moment — and if your body is telling you that you are too tired or depleted to undertake a challenging task, then listen to it and, if you can, reschedule the task for when you have more energy. To build our resilience muscle I think we need to give ourselves the gift of noticing how we are really feeling, and of being kind enough to ourselves to give ourselves a break sometimes.
- Learn how to re-set using your breath. Often stress is triggered by our brain reacting to events as if we are in mortal danger. Something happens to trigger an area of our brain called our ‘amygdala’ which gives us an automatic ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response. This is especially common when we are already tired or stressed. But this is just our brain’s way of keeping us safe from danger — which is great when we really are at risk. The trouble is, most of the time when we have a ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response, we’re not really in mortal danger at all. In our twenty-first century lives, we are less likely to be attacked by a saber-toothed tiger, and more likely to trigger a risk response when we’re about to have a difficult conversation or give a presentation. The way to calm our nervous systems and re-set, is simply to regulate our breathing. Breathe in deeply to the count of five and out to the count of five. Taking deep, regular breaths five times in a row, tells our brain that we’re not actually in danger, and that we just need to be calm so that we can think straight.
One of my coaching clients, Alex, described what happened when she used this technique during a conversation she had been dreading. “It was amazing, I was in a state of panic and just couldn’t get my words out. I remembered to start to breathe properly, and within a couple of minutes I got my focus back. I felt calm and really clear. Like everything just clicked back into place in that very moment.”
I practice this regulated breathing every day so that I have it to hand in the moments that I need it — and I advise my clients to do the same.
- Create good boundaries around your time. So often when we think about having too much to do, it’s because we feel unable to stop. The pressure to do more, to respond immediately to emails and notifications and just the sheer complexity of the demands on us, can lead us to feel really stressed and overwhelmed. This is where a lot of my clients are when they come to see me. As Amani said to me, “I feel like I’m being pulled in all directions and I’m doing everything badly. I feel guilty the whole time and I should be doing something else, and I’m exhausted.”
If, this is your resilience issue, then I recommend creating some clear boundaries around your time. Make a conscious choice at the start of the day about what matters most and timetable your day so that you have time to focus on that. Separate out the different activities you want to do, so that they don’t all bleed into each other. For many of us, it can be as simple as deciding a particular time of day to do emails, or even to schedule a time in the week when we are unavailable. For Amani, it was setting digital free Tuesday evenings with her whole family so they could spend quality time with each other. Whatever it is, protect the boundaries you set like a dragon sitting on gold!
- Think about what re-charges your batteries. Everything in the living world needs time to rest and replenish — including us. But often, when we are feeling really overburdened, we can forget this fact. We can drive ourselves so hard that we just keep going until we run out of energy, or even, burnout. If you notice yourself getting into this habit, try asking yourself this question, “What am I doing today that re-charges my batteries?” The simple fact of asking may well be what it takes to remind you that you need to do this. Re-charging your batteries doesn’t have to be big or take long. It’s often the simplest things that restore us and refresh our energy. For my client Caroline for example, it was remembering to take a half hour lunch break each day — sitting with the sun on her face, for others it can be a walk around the block between meetings. What could it be for you?
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Learn to master what I call in my book, the art of ‘enough’. So much of what we’ve been discussing today is about re-framing our thinking about what we need to be enough and how we can stop so we can do enough. When we know that we are enough, we can focus our energy on living with healthy limits, which in turn means that we have enough of what we need to really flourish. We’re so often addicted to the need to do more, or have more, and I think this can be really damaging to us. This is true for us as individuals, and it’s also the case for our planet right now. Focusing on what is ‘enough’ for you will really help you to stop striving and start thriving.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
This is definitely the hardest question you’ve asked me! There are so many people I admire and whose work has had a profound influence on me. I think though, I’m going to go with Glennon Doyle. I love her book, ‘Untamed’ and I love how open and honest she is about what makes her resilient and gives her courage. I also love how she shows up and makes such a positive contribution to the lives of others. So, breakfast, lunch or even a chat with Glennon (and her wife Abby) would be amazing!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is: www.theartofenough.co.uk
I’m on instagram as @beckyhallartofenough;
I have a facebook page: @theartofenoughbook
And you can buy my book on Amazon.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!