2020: Building Resilience in a Decade of Uncertainty
26th February, 2020
It’s the start of a new year. And a new decade.
If there’s one thing striking me more than anything as we
enter the 2020s, it’s the state of our planet.
We finished the last decade with multiple warnings from the
scientific community that climate change is happening quicker than anyone
anticipated. And then, as if someone wanted to make the point crystal clear, we
entered the year with record high temperatures and outof-control bushfires in
In response to these events I have seen many people in the
media (most recently Greta Thunberg speaking at Davos) say we have eight to ten
years to take decisive action to improve our probability of averting our
I can’t predict the next ten years any more than the next
person but it seems obvious to say that we’ll need to make some bold moves in
response. This applies to our government, our businesses, our leaders and many
other key stakeholders. But I think it applies to us as individuals as well.
It scares me to write this - and I know it’s not a popular
thing to say - but it’s very likely we will all need to adapt and change at a
personal level, in a significant way, to shift to a low carbon economy.
Building resilience in a decade of uncertainty
In this context, our resilience (both as individuals and
organisations) is only going to become more important because building
resilience increases our capacity for change.
Based on my experience of working with clients, some people
will thrive in response to all of this. It will be an opportunity to align
their actions with their values and fight for something that gives them meaning
and purpose. I think it will be the making of them.
evidence from my use of heartbeat analytics tells me that doing something
meaningful is a source of recovery (e.g. the parasympathetic nervous system is
activated, leading to increased levels), even if what they’re doing feels like
However, for some people, our changing climate is going to
be a source of anxiety, depression, anger, loss and burn out. The anticipation
alone is already impacting on people’s mental health. Eco-anxiety
is a known phenomenon that is affecting an increasing number of people,
according to the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
For these people, the ability to look after yourself, know
how to bounce back and the ability to use difficulty as a source of learning
and growth is going to be particularly crucial.
Five pillars of resilience
So how do we build personal resilience to support us during
these uncertain times?
In my experience, the answer is unique to each of us. We
have to find what works for our specific needs and circumstances. This is
because one person’s stress is another person’s recovery.
However, if you’re not sure where to start, I’d recommend
beginning with these five themes:
1. Sleep: take your sleep seriously by preparing for
a good night’s sleep. I am yet to meet anyone who doesn’t feel better after 8
hours of high-quality sleep.
2. Food: eating the food that makes you feel at your
best. This includes eating seasonal and locally sourced food as much as
3. Exercise: because being fit improves our mental
health, helps us to minimise stress and enhances recovery.
4. Doing what you love: as mentioned further above,
doing what you love is source of recovery.
5. Successful rest: knowing how to recover in your
evenings, weekends and holidays. See a
blog I wrote on this topic few years ago.
These themes can significantly improve our resilience. And
yet, they may also be insufficient in response to our climate emergency. This
is a topic I will write about in more detail in the months ahead.
Health precedes activism
Finally, building resilience isn’t just about preparing for
some apocalyptic future! It seems almost too obvious to say this, but it
benefits us in many other ways. If anything we just feel better.
And I believe that prioritising our health supports us to
improve the world around too, as Khurshed Dehnugara and Claire Breeze so
eloquently describe in 100 Mindsets of Challenger Leaders:
“Health calls you to activism. Once you have attended to
yourself then you can’t but turn to the environment you are operating in. It
pushes you to wake up to the whole system you are living in and how it can
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Rowan Gray is the founder of Made to Move.
He works with senior leaders, teams and organisations to build resilience using a combination of coaching techniques and heartbeat analytics. His work is focused on supporting people’s capacity to thrive during challenging times by bouncing back and using their difficulties as a source of learning.
Rowan is an executive coach and training as a psychotherapist. He's also an endurance athlete, fascinated in exploring his ability to perform optimally during long distance running and cycling events.
He used to work at Deloitte as a sustainability consultant where he supported leaders to develop better ways of doing business.