Build a Resilient mindset — A resilient mindset has a very specific group of characteristics. Learning from failure or mistakes, embracing adversity, maintaining calm, taking responsibility and being ferociously curious are all traits of a Resilient Mindset. The first step to a Resilient mindset is knowing what one is made of, and how it relates to 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 Chris Geal..
Chris Geal is a Coach, Leader and Cancer Survivor who lives a life less ordinary. His specialty is building Strong and Resilient mindsets that enable people to embrace and grow through lifes challenges, and beyond their boundaries.
Chris lives a global life with his family. Originally from Western Australia, he now resides in the beautiful city of Girona in the Northeast of Spain.
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?
Sure — my coaching journey started as part of my leadership career in Matrix and Blue-Chip organizations, predominantly Mining and Major Projects. I believe good leaders are inherently good coaches, so I always took a coaching approach to my leadership roles.
The desire to become a full-time coach was realized when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colorectal Cancer. With a Cancer diagnosis there often comes a massive change of perspective; and it was at this point that I decided to pursue coaching as a way of helping others and doing something that I love.
I now help clients across the world build resilient mindsets and achieve excellence through adversity.
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?
I spent a large part of my leadership career working for companies that operate in fast paced, challenging and remote locations. From Bushfires and Cyclones in the Australian outback, to freezing temperatures on The North Sea — Adversity is ever present in these places, yet in my mind it was something to be avoided.
It was Cancer that really solidified my understanding of Adversity and helped me view it in a different light. Rather than avoiding it, I began to embrace the journey, and learn from the life changing experience it was.
When I reflect on the greatest challenges of my life and career, I saw many of them as unwanted at the time. Now all I see are the learnings and opportunities that came from them.
Through adversity, resilience is forged, this is one of the fundamental principles I share with Leaders and Survivors alike.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Breakout Survivor and Leadership Coaching is a unique coaching experience developed with the aim of achieving excellence through adversity. It brings together the exciting fields of mindset, mindfulness, and transformational coaching into a tailored and intimate coaching experience. Many people walk away from the greatest challenges in their life with a burning desire for change. Breakout helps them achieve that change in their life or career.
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?
I have been fortunate enough to work with and be mentored and coached by some amazing people in my career, it would be difficult to single one out. When I think of all these people, the main support I took from them was their belief in me. This enabled me to realize it was the authentic version of myself that the best leaders supported, and I could succeed by just being me.
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?
When I define Resilience, I like to think in terms of mindsets, and specifically growth mindsets. Curiosity, humility, abundance and being an agent of our own destiny are all traits that position us to grow through, and beyond life’s challenges.
Ultimately, Resilience is defined by our perception of adversity. If we see the opportunity in adversity, we are better placed to grow, learn and develop the traits of resilience.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage and Resilience I see as similar as they both share a direct link to adversity. But they can also be different, in the sense that courage is an inner strength that we draw upon to confront the challenges in our life. Resilience, however, is the ability to learn and grow from it.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Without a doubt my wife Valerie, when I think of resilience, she is the first person that comes to mind. Through the challenges of living a global life, to supporting me through Cancer. She has not only been steadfast in her support, but also has an innate ability to overcome and thrive beyond difficult times.
The more challenges we encounter in our life, the more resilient she becomes and the more she achieves.
When I was diagnosed with Cancer I spent over a year in and out of hospital, on top of the treatment cycles that can last for months at a time. My wife hardly flinched, she just shouldered the load of being a mother of two children, while ensuring that I could focus on my Cancer treatment and recovery.
As I was finishing my final round of surgery, she was in Spain making all the arrangements for our family to move shortly after. She then went on to help our children integrate into another culture, learn another language, and then open a successful business in our home of Girona.
She is my greatest inspiration.
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?
I would like to look at this differently, quite often it is our own self that is the loudest voice of impossibility. The self-doubts and limiting beliefs that we at times we contemplate when something seems hard to achieve, or outside of our comfort zone. Much of the way I live my life, many would see as impossible. For me the more challenges I take on, and the more I live outside of my comfort zone; the more possible the impossible becomes.
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?
If I think of my career, there was a time I took on a position in a business that was just not right for me.
At this time of my life, I was struggling with stress and anxiety; It is highly likely that I had Cancer and didn’t even know it yet.
Yet when I evaluated this position, all I saw was the Remuneration, the brand of the company and the potential career growth.
I didn’t give my own Health and Wellness a second thought when I committed to a role that would effectively double my stress levels, at a time that I needed to reduce them. Now when I evaluate any opportunity in my life or career, my own Health and Wellness comes first; no matter the client or business that I am considering working with.
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?
I would describe the growing resilience inside me as a “slow burn” that gradually developed throughout my life, as I learned to live outside of my comfort zone. For me resilience is cultivated in places, and states of “discomfort”.
Travel was always a big part of my upbringing, and the way my parents raised us. I guess it was their way of ensuring we developed important strengths such as resilience by experiencing the world around us.
Leaving home at 19 to backpack across Europe and North Africa by myself was my first big step into the unknown, and way outside of my comfort zone. I remember standing on the wharf in Tangier in the North of Morocco, after getting the ferry from Spain. There I was standing by myself, thinking “you’re not in Kansas anymore.” I did not have a clue where I was going and had literally made the decision to cross into Africa a few hours before, when on a bus in the South of Spain. These were pre smartphone days, so the only guide I had was my trusty Lonely Planet book in my backpack. It is these experiences wear my Resilience began to grow and would set me up for the many challenges later in life.
Most importantly, we take the same approach with our children. We are a proud global family, and living this way ensures our children become resilient within themselves. It amazes me when I see my two little Aussies thriving in such a culturally diverse environment, such as the Spanish education system. They are way outside their comfort zones on a daily basis, yet they have thrived. At just 7 and 11 years old, they can now speak three languages fluently — this for us, is the cultivation of resilience: and our gift to them.
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.
- Be uncomfortable — recognize that resilience is rarely found in places of comfort. It is when we are uncomfortable, that we learn the most about ourselves.
- Accept adversity — adversity is a crucial part of the resilience equation. You can’t have one without the other. So, when it becomes part of your life, recognize it as the opportunity it is; not the curse we often mistake it for.
- Build a Resilient mindset — A resilient mindset has a very specific group of characteristics. Learning from failure or mistakes, embracing adversity, maintaining calm, taking responsibility and being ferociously curious are all traits of a Resilient Mindset. The first step to a Resilient mindset is knowing what one is made of, and how it relates to you.
- Do the inner work — Resilience starts within, so you must learn to work within. Mindfulness strategies such as meditation can work wonders when it comes to strengthening your Resilience muscle. If there are challenges in my life (there always is!) the act of sitting quietly with myself is of profound importance. During these exercises a state of calm and clarity is developed around the challenge. I am then better positioned to see the opportunity within, and to grow and learn from it.
- Fail your way to resilience — not getting something right the first time, is enough to turn people off ever trying again. Resilience is found in failure, keep trying, keep learning and embrace it as the opportunity that it is.
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. 🙂
I would really like to see the further expansion of mindset-based interventions in helping patients during Cancer Treatment. Having coached interventions during the treatment cycle can help Cancer Patients realize that they are not just victims at the mercy of a disease. Instead, they can work towards building a strong survivor-based mindset with potentially better outcomes.
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 🙂
Rich Roll — Host of The Rich Roll Podcast — He has an amazing ability to listen deeply and connect with whomever he has on his show. Above all his ability to process and articulate what a person is expressing to him is incredible. As a coach, I really appreciate this skillset, and would love to hear his take on it.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me at
LinkedIn — linkedin.com/in/chrisgeal
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!