Focus on the cans, not the can’ts. If you focus only on the things you can’t do in life, you are always going to live in the shadow of negativity. Think instead of what you can do or what you can change and build from there. Change is possible and the only stumbling block is usually the prison we create for ourselves through fear.
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 Dr SIan Peer, Director of RTT Method & The RTT School.
Having begun her career as a therapist, Dr Sian Peer realized she wanted to work on a larger scale to make systemic change happen. As a consultant she advised charities and Government how to structure services, primarily focusing on children’s services. As with many drawn into vocational work, it became evident the people in the greatest need are those most likely to get lost in the system. Frustrated by an inability to move things forward to effect real change, Dr Peer set up a global online training school specialising in Rapid Transformational Therapy — now an award-winning, multi-million dollar community — which provides accessible therapy at speed.
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?
My passion has always been to help other people live their very best lives which is why I decided to become a therapist after leaving college. I soon realised that working with people on an individual basis would not facilitate change fast enough to impact society. Having retrained, I went on to work with a range of charities and government organisations, primarily focusing on the strategic development and design of programmes to support families and children at risk.
My sister, Marisa Peer, created Rapid Transformation Therapy as a result of her 30 years experience as a world-renowned therapist. Drawing upon established modalities such as CBT and Positive Psychology along with deep relaxation and mindfulness, RTT is unique because of the almost immediate impact it can have.One 90 minute session coupled with listening to a personalised audio for 21 days is often enough to help clients turn their lives around. In 2016 I began creating and formalising the RTT therapy training school. My goal was to
make therapy accessible and affordable. I realised if I created an amazing training programme, I could develop first class therapists and more people could quickly access the support they needed.
RTT is such a powerful therapy, I wanted its legacy to live on beyond Marisa. In the UK, the waiting lists for help for mental health issues can be up to 18 months whilst in countries where there is no public health service, therapy can be a long and costly process.
Since establishing the school, we have trained nearly 10 thousand therapists globally and have testimonies from people whose lives have been turned around thanks to RTT.
I have just begun the next stage of this incredible journey — RTT Method — crafting an evidence base that will set RTT apart and see it used in statutory services alongside other more established tools. That’s my mission — to ensure vulnerable people gain access to interventions that transform their situations.
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 was part of a 17-strong child protection committee interviewing a single mother who was facing the very real possibility of having her five children removed from her care. The children all had different fathers, she was unable to pay her rent, was a victim of domestic abuse and one of her children had just received a jail sentence. This woman’s life was falling apart around her yet the only thing she could focus on was the fact that one of her kitchen cupboards would not close.
It was a surreal situation — how could something so trivial be at the core of her concern when she had lost control of pretty much everything in her life. But therein lay the answer — it was all about control. Her kitchen cupboard represented the one thing she could fix. It was a lightbulb moment for me — I promised that the cupboard would be fixed immediately and her whole attitude and demeanour changed. It represented a win for her and made her feel that her opinion mattered. She felt empowered for the first time and went on to turn her life around. She studied for a degree and subsequently trained as a social worker.
What I learnt from this experience was that by truly listening to people, you can establish what they need. Something that might seem insignificant can be the key to unlocking a person’s potential, but you have to be able to hear what it is they are really saying.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We lead with our heart. To quote Nike’s famous slogan, we really believe in a ‘just do it’ approach — we trust our team to go with their instinct and put it out there. We have a strong sense of what people need and do our damndest to deliver this — for both our employees and our clients. Everyone is an individual with specific strengths which need to be recognised and developed. Happy teams are sustainable teams that grow together with the business. Being a business that has been built completely online, our people are our assets so we understand the need to invest in them.
We have trained therapists who have returned to our company as trainers in their own right and using the skills we taught them, created their own programmes to expand the potential of RTT. Giving people the freedom and power to interpret our vision to suit their skillset has meant that RTT has become more of a global community than a business. Our therapists help each other rather than seeing one another as competition — each therapist realises they have the ability to offer their clients a bespoke product as RTT is not formulaic with one size fitting all.
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?
My sister, Marisa Peer, has always been there for me — throughout good times and bad. Had she not developed RTT based on her astonishing career as a therapist over the past 30 years, I would not have been able to build the RTT school. I am so proud of the fact we have now made this wonderful modality available to people the world over. She has given me the tools I needed to be able to help people in all walks of life make a career change and train as therapists, to then go on and deliver RTT to people who were in desperate need of help.
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?
Trying to describe resilience is like trying to remember a dream. Just when you think you have grasped it as a concept, you think of something else and never quite find the definition that encapsulates it. I started debating whether it is something learnt or something you are born with — nurture versus nature.
What I soon realised is that resilience is not something out there, it is a muscle that we have developed over time often in the face of discomfort. Each and everyone of us will have been faced by challenges and we respond according to the level of resilience we can draw on at any given moment. If resilience is a muscle, each time we address, let’s call it adversity, we flex that muscle. We draw on reserves. It is found in those moments when we survive “against all odds”, or bounce back having been knocked down for the umpteenth time. As Marisa says, our minds’ job is to keep us safe on this planet, not to make us happy. This is why we can draw on surprising reserves when we become stressed and anxious. It can be both mental and physical or both — some young children will experience a childhood of mental or physical abuse, going on to survive and thrive. Others won’t. What differentiates them? A boxer will get back up time and again after being knocked down. Both are examples of resilience.
Is resilience finite? If someone has spent their life defying the odds, will their store or resilience eventually dry up? Is that what burnout represents? Are there any warning signs for your resilience supply dwindling like a light on your petrol gauge. And is it always a good thing? If you are in an abusive relationship, being resilient suggests putting up with your circumstances rather than doing the sensible thing and leaving. The more you think about it, the more questions get thrown up.
In essence, for me it’s about drive, determination and always reverting to a positive mindset. In RTT, we have an exercise called installing the cheerleader which is the focus of a free new resource we have created for children aged 7–10 to help them build self-confidence, self-esteem and, yes, resilience. You could describe resilience as an inner cheerleader — that little voice inside your head that tells you to keep going, no matter what life throws in your way.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I see resilience being there for the long haul whereas courage is fleeting and ephemeral. Courage is the fight element of our ‘fight or flight’ stance, driven by adrenaline and fear whilst often lacking calculation and strategy. I also think that courage can be dangerous and misplaced. As a society we are less courageous nowadays as we are more afraid of standing up for our beliefs. Courage can be dampened very easily as we return to familiar habits and behaviours. However, resilience is a self-care strategy that takes over when we can no longer process or are feeling overwhelmed. It pushes you forward regardless of what you are thinking about a situation. It just deals with it.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
It was a strong and determined traveller woman who has had the biggest impact on me and taught me the meaning of resilience. The traveller community is one that is scrutinized both internally and externally, especially the women of the groups. For the most part they are mistreated and misunderstood as with many minority groups, with preconceived ideas about them being passed down through generations to reinforce a stereotype of being different, other and separate from society. Likewise, The Travellers I met remained very private about their way of life and were not keen to share community secrets which helped to facilitate this separation from the rest of society.
The woman in question had helped one of her sons to recover from addiction six times but lost him to suicide, finding him dead in the shower. Yet when she spoke out about the issues her community faced she became quite unpopular with the Travellers themselves. Undeterred, she used her voice to shine a spotlight on the challenges the community were facing and shared with services how Travellers knew what they needed. She was a real powerhouse and by using her resilience, she found a way to share her story to educate the non-Travelling community about what was happening. She was amazing, courageous, and giving.
No matter what other people and life throw at you, this woman taught me the importance of staying true to yourself and standing up for what you believe in. Her vulnerability became her power.
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?
It is often those people who are meant to be our biggest supporters that bring out our resilient qualities. I grew up with my mother’s opening gambit often being ‘don’t be ridiculous’ in response to any of my ideas or plans. This was what happened when I announced as a single working mother of three my intention of studying for a Phd. However, instead of allowing those words to define me and doubt myself, they always made me determined to prove my capabilities. I never got the recognition from my mother for doing this but it gave me the strength to achieve all the great things I have done.
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?
Walking away from my last job with nothing to fall back on was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. I realised the service I’d worked on was unsustainable, my integrity was being challenged and commuting was eating up my day. I realised I couldn’t do it any more but once I had made that decision to leave, I felt nothing but relief.
Deciding to create the RTT School meant starting from ground zero. Even though online businesses and working from home were not commonplace, I realised this was the most resource efficient means to build a global community.
I began by creating a business that was outcome focused — giving clients the results needed to be able to live their best lives. Although I was building a school, the service being offered was always the focus. Coming from a heavily bureaucratic background, I knew what to take forward and what to leave behind. I had also realised that everyone is different and learnt from my mistake of expecting everyone to perform at the same level as me.
It took just five months for the business to take off and it gave me a real sense of fulfillment to have created a wellbeing business from scratch — one that is now helping so many individuals globally as well as organisations including schools, multinationals and healthcare organisations.
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?
Like many women, I never thought I would become a cancer statistic but back in 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3c womb cancer and given a 25% chance of survival. Resilience kicked in instinctively as I had to manage the reactions of my close friends and family whilst continuing to work and look after my children. There wasn’t time for self-pity. One of the most challenging circumstances was to block out the chatter of everybody thinking they knew what was best for me; the casual comments about everyone dying one day, and friends who backed away, unable to cope with my diagnosis was very difficult. Losing my sense of femininity was also difficult as I no longer felt sexual, sensual or attractive.
Although I had to go through a brutal regime of surgery, chemo and radiation, I decided to approach it with a positive mindset. When heading off for chemo I made an effort by wearing my best clothes, putting on my make-up and taking a nice lunch with me. My chemo lasted 8 hours and I was usually the first to arrive in oncology and the last to leave but I made myself stay alert and positive throughout that time.
Finishing treatment provided another challenge as I felt my wellbeing was now my responsibility rather than being in the hands of the medical professionals. I began a more healthy regime of diet and exercise as well as setting up a support group for other women going through treatment for womb cancer. Resilience is built in small victories one after the other and through this growth you learn to become the best version of yourself at that moment in time.
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.
Counter The Pessimism
We are bombarded with bad news on a daily basis-global warming, the latest Covid variant, terrorism. If we take in all this bad stuff, it can easily affect our mood and our outlook on the world. It’s important to know what is happening but equally it’s important to rejoice in all the good things going on. Avoid being a news junky and instead look for the optimists view of the world.
Small Acts of Change
We’re always being told to do this or that to improve our health and to make it a habit that sticks. I’ve tried for years to drink more water but regularly forget to carry my water bottle everywhere or fill it up again once it’s empty. I work from home and always pop in and out of the kitchen to put the kettle on or make toast. So I adjusted my thinking and made sure I drank a glass of water every time I headed for the kitchen. Not only was it more manageable, but my water intake improved significantly. Reframe the changes you want to make to fit with your lifestyle and behaviours you already have and not the other way around.
Accept the inevitable
There is the old adage of expect the best but prepare for the worst. Inevitably, life is going to ride roughshod over us all. We get our hearts broken, our hopes dashed, or views challenged. We get divorced, sick, have bereavements and pick up bad habits. If we expect our lives to be one long series of happy endings, we are going to be disappointed. Instead, accept that at times life will be challenging but we will come out of the other end in a better place. When something happens that blind sides us, reframe it as a life lesson and look at what it can teach you together with potential opportunities. Ask yourself the question, what have I learnt about myself today?
Focus on the cans, not the can’ts
If you focus only on the things you can’t do in life, you are always going to live in the shadow of negativity. Think instead of what you can do or what you can change and build from there. Change is possible and the only stumbling block is usually the prison we create for ourselves through fear.
Choose life meaning what energises you. When an opportunity comes along, don’t say no because you are frightened of change. Change is a positive thing and the reverse would be to stagnate. There is a Bhuddist saying that encourages us to take one step and everything around us will change. These can be very small steps, such as sitting outside with your laptop and coffee rather than always being inside. You will get a whole new perspective.
Even the smallest step away from your problem can give you a different perspective.
Use your skills for your passion
No matter how talented you are, if you don’t bring your skills to bear in a job you love you are not going to be happy. Without joy, you are less likely to deal with problems in a constructive way as your resilience will have been drained on a daily basis. Feed your soul and feed your inner strength. If you stand behind something you enjoy it will never feel like work- as Marisa says in RTT if you love what you do you will do what you love.
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. 🙂
There is a cliche that youth is wasted on the young. Actually, I think if we could give life lessons to younger people, we would create a formidable generation that really could change the world. I would create a movement called the I Can Movement, a toolkit for young women to take them through life stages and escape the confines of the circumstances they find themselves in. Given these women will go on to build families and communities let’s get them in a positive and growth mindset.It would be like having your own wise old crone at your side giving sound advice in a way that made sense rather than feeling like a parent or teacher who is constantly offering you homilies.
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 🙂
I love the fact that she also came from a service background and had the foresight to really consider and reflect on how change can be brought about for families with the most serious, complex and layered challenges.
We are designed to scrutinise and direct families through processes that are ill resourced and stigmatise those who reach out. Brene has made compassion, understanding and humanity part of her message which I truly admire. I would love to spend time with her, reshaping services to foster greater resilience in families facing extreme circumstances. Imagine gifting families the opportunity to work on their self doubt and diminished self worth, reminding the disenfranchised women of this world of the skills, strengths and aspirations that lie hidden within.
When I think of resilience these are the people I look to in awe. Mothers surviving domestic abuse whilst battling to keep their children safe, housed, fed and happy. Women surviving on low incomes with limited resources facing yet another day with challenges anew. If we show these people that we care, their resilience will grow. We have a lot to learn from them. So with Brene Brown and a group of fearless women, we can make change happen. .
How can our readers further follow your work online?
What I would love is for schools and parents to access our free resource entitled I Can’t to I Can which is aimed at helping children build resilience, confidence and self-esteem. These can be found at https://rtt.com/method/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!