Resilience as key to success was published in Flight Time Magazine July (Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones).
I never liked Sansa Stark at the beginning, but I changed my opinion of her before the last episode...and was not disappointed. Sans was raised to be a lady (and suffered the innocent loss of her direwolf by that very name), had everything she believed in torn brutally away from her at 13. She suffered – although in a dramatically theatrical way – what many women face. Wanting to “be feminine”, deferring to others out of a sense of duty, seeking a “quiet life” is criticized – even by women. Why is she not raising dragons, or learning swordsmanship, or seducing her way to the top in a toxic world? Yes, her sister’s heroics killed the Night King, but Sansa stood strong:
-To escape King’s Landing she aligned with unlikely sources who showed her sweet disposition kindness.
-To return to Winterfell she played the game – without losing sight of her integrity (she and Arya ended the machinations of Baelish despite his part in assuring some of her safe passage), she built her character from those she admired without turning persecutor or victim.
- She stood up as a determined diplomat for The North before Daenerys and Jon Snow. She did not rush into battle, but she was prepared to “stick them with the pointy end” when the need arose. Sansa has grown – and without an advisor or protector (eg. Jorah, The Hound, Jaime).
- She’s thought critically, trusted her judgment, accepted help (eg. From Brianne and Tyrion) when required.
- She wouldn’t ignore the bells of surrender because she is a lady – Lady Sansa of Winterfell, and doing a fine job of leadership.
It is Sansa’s resilience, innate ability to learn - to adapt while retaining integrity and grace, that is her strength. And in a world where the fight is not always rewarded Sansa Starks are not to be underestimated.
But, building resilience does not happen all at once, and does not happen in isolation. Strenghtening emotional and mental strength in one area will result in benefits in others, but without the time nor space of an 8 season epic, I will focus on one aspect at a time...this first one, in the 6 minutes it takes to read:
For this 6 Minute Resilience Article: I want to discuss habitual responses and how we can manage them.
What is an habitual response
Usually this is a thought process set down in childhood which drives us to behave in a certain way. The type I will focus on in this article are things we believe about ourself. Such beliefs can include:
- You're so pretty
- You're special
- You're so clever
- You're so brave
- You're ugly
- You'll never succeed
- You're too emotional
...the list is endless, but they will all include something which people close to us have repeated for some time, and there will be an element of truth to them. However, where this can askew our thinking is when we start believing that is the only thing that we amount to. In the case of Sansa, it was originally "You're a lady".
Where these can cause us problems
While being told any of the above may not result in any issues, what can happen in some of us - myself included who always had a negative "You're not good enough" levelled at me (not because my parents were meaning to be cruel but because they believed it would motivate me to do more) - is that we DO get motivated to do more. Problem solved right? Maybe parents should always use this "reverse psychology".
The problem I faced was yes I achieved, and yes my parents were pleased, but at no point did they ever say "Now you're good enough", or more realistically, "I was only saying that to motivate you, you're great, and I want you to do more." So I just kept collecting achievement after achievement, which became less and less meaningful to the point where there are no more I want to collect - or can without burning out financially or physically!
While a LOT of self reflection brought me to understanding that I do this in the first place, I still struggle when I'm in a situation where I feel down or insecure. That situation can be anything - it might be hormones! It might be I simply had a bad day...or at least a day which was a bit "meh". It might be I got a parking ticket. What I notice at that point is that my "Not good enough, I'll show you who's not good enough!" alter ego surges to the surface and out come a barrage of facebook posts/examples at my unsuspecting husband who merely asked "How was your day?", and sometimes I even provoke others just so I can achieve a (minor, pointless) sense of victory.
While those near and dear can tell me to "Sit down and think about what I'm doing", it's still exhausting.
Your go-to response - whatever that "Don't mess with me, I'm XXXX" is that makes you feel better when you are mad, is a) a good indication that there IS something to reflect on going on, and to value yourself enough to go and think about it; and b) only going to sabotage your progress in self development:
Rather than stop and think how the situation ended up at the litigious point in the first place, perhaps you glory more in the win.
Rather than focus on why people may not take you as seriously as you like, you prefer to post a saucy picture and tell everyone you're beautiful.
Rather than appreciate the moment of peace to recharge with who and what matters, you are looking for the next passion project to figurehead for the troops.
Rather than question why someone responded abruptly, you shut down and remind yourself it's they who are the ones who have the problem.
Reconditioning the habit
1. Recognise it is happening - even if you didn't see it at the time, it's ok, you still noticed.
2. Take a moment to reflect on that situation - what were the links in the chain that led up to your response. What made you feel bad, sad, ashamed, upset, rejected...?
3. Consider other courses of action you could have taken - not for right now, but next time, if you are able to catch yourself sooner (write them down if it helps)
4. Have a list of other, healthy - or at least not unhealthy! - things you can do that simply break the train of thought you are currently on - eg. going for a walk; reading a book; playing with a pet; doing some brain training on your smart phone; writing a blog; drinking water...
5. Remind yourself that you are choosing to heal.
Those habits, those go-to responses, have been helpful to us. They have got us through in the past - perhaps at times when we have felt or been completely alone. But if we are at the point of thinking in this way about emotions and behaviour, then we are likely not in that exact situation anymore.
That response - your ability to argue and succeed; your winning smile; your passionate address; your "talk to the hand" - they are effective sometimes - and will continue to be, but if you believe you are more than that (and often the foundation of your anxiety about yourself in the first place is that other people don't see you are more than that) then you have to see it first!
Sansa didn't lose her ladylike qualities - but she adapted and learned as required. I will not lose my drive to achieve, but I will be appreciating my success more - and those who helped me, especially when I was at my most vulnerable with none of that drive left (things I didn't really reflect on before). Now I appreciate kindness, compassion, patience as much as motivation - and work to develop those qualities in myself too...and I find them most helpful when my usual "go for it" approach seems lacking! It also helps me be a bit kinder to myself whenever I catch myself out and feel frustrated that I took a step backwards. It doesn't make me weak, in fact it re-energises me faster to get up and give it another go.
You ARE greater than the habit that drives you (even though it has served you well) - you might just need to practice your other assets more often as you navigate forward.
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (2018) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (2016) She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She consults, coaches and often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, as well as being part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and provides psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.