Former POW @JohnNicholRAF asked me for thoughts on resilience in hostile situations…

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, tough situations and change. It’s about bouncing back and getting up one more time than we fall over. A material like nylon’s a good example, it’s not easily crushed or creased and stuff washes off it easily and it doesn’t stain. (However, I’m not suggesting we should wear more nylon. I prefer PVC). This brings me nicely to a key to resilience- good humour, the ability to laugh at ourselves and in the face of adversity. When we take offence it erodes our resilience and the world becomes a hostile place. (Couldn't find a picture of someone taking offence, so I put this one of two guys taking a fence above).

Life can be tough and unfair. I’m a realist, so the starting point is to understand and accept reality.

It is what it is. Let’s understand the objective truth and work out how we’re going to get through it.

In times of crisis one human reaction is denial, there’s a temptation to put our head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. Helpful questions for this point: What is it I don’t want to hear about this situation? What’s the worst-case scenario? My experience is ninety-nine times out of a hundred it’s not as bad as it could be, so count your blessings.

Psychological research shows we have the ability to choose the way we think. A key part of resilience is avoiding unhelpful thinking.  Don’t blame, keep the thoughts constructive and positive. Our thinking should be grascious and generous to ourselves and others. In short, look beyond the pain and reach for realistic optimism.

Examples of stinking thinking are thoughts that are down on self, others, our future and the world in general. They’re rigid ‘it must be ‘my way’; thoughts, full of assumption; not reality tested and goal blocking- all the reasons not too.

Healthy mental habits as are accepting of ourselves, others, the world and our future. A generosity of spirit. Flexible or agile thinking which is reality tested and not assumptive. Thinking which is ‘can do’ and ‘let’s find a way to make it work’

Never underestimate the power of belief. To be resilient we must choose to believe in ourselves. Sometimes people need help to grow self-belief. Kind words of encouragement are more important than we often realise.

Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness; we should be prepared to ask for other views and be prepared to be helped and help others. It’s a two-way street.

When I was in a remote part of Mozambique East Africa I met a missionary working in the vast Northern provinces. I was clearing UXO’s with Frank my Operations Officer ahead of UNHCR sending refugees back to their villages. One evening there was thunderstorm with the heaviest rain imaginable. The water began to rise.

We talked about floods. He smiled and told me a story (I suspect apocryphal) of a Godly man who saw the water rise around his home. He prayed to God for help and as the flood rose higher he climbed onto the roof of his house where he saw trees and cars float by. He prayed to God to send angels to save him because he was a righteous believer.

The rain fell and the floods rose, then a boy paddled past him in a canoe. He stopped and said ‘Can I offer you a ride in my boat Sir?

The righteous man replied ‘No, I’ve prayed to God to save me and I believe he’ll send angels down shortly’

The boy nods and paddles away.

Righteous man continues to pray in the rain and soon a fire service boat with flashing blue lights slows its engine and they urge him to jump aboard. ‘No thanks, I’ve prayed to God to save me and I believe he’ll send angels down shortly’

They know him to be righteous and reluctantly sail on.

The wind and rain rise. His prayers and pleas grow more intense. Finally, through the driving rain a helicopter hovers lower. The winchman descends clutching a sling and tries to save him. Pushing it away he says ‘No thank you! I’ve prayed to God to save me and I believe he’ll send angels shortly’

The winchman’s ear peace crackles ‘We have to respect his decision and there’s another twenty waiting. Let’s go.’

Swirling flood waters rise, the torrential rain continues, the house creaks and groans and finally collapses sinking into the black swirling void. The man quickly drowns.

He dies, goes to heaven, meets his maker and says ‘God I prayed to you to send angels. Why didn’t you answer me I'm a righteous person’

God laughs and says ‘What do you mean? I sent a canoe, a rescue boat and helicopter.

So maybe there are angels among us and perhaps we should strive to be someone else’s angel.

Be nylon!; I wish you a crush and wrinkle proof future.

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Mindfulness - How It Can Benefit You

I’m surprised how many top performing people I know who practice Mindfulness. It’s about focusing our awareness on the current moment whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting immediate feelings thoughts and body sensations. Having spent time discussing mindfulness with Bhante Rewatha, who is Chief Monk of Great Britain (based in Maryhill, Glasgow which is more synonymous with TV detective dramas than Buddist temples!)  simply it’s about being 100% in the present and not concerned about past issues or worrying about our future. I also know some highly effective people who have developed this state and might not call it mindfulness.

So what are the benefits of mindfulness?

 Never tried it before? Here are a few simple steps on how to do Mindfulness:

* Close your eyes and simply bring awareness to the present. Take a few deep breaths through your nose and let everything go. No judgements - it is what it is.

* Choose a routine activity like taking a shower, travelling to work, walking, etc. and focus completely on what you are doing moment by moment.

* Make a note of a pleasant event in your day. Were you aware of pleasant feelings at the time? How did it make you feel physically? What thoughts, feelings, moods did you have at the time?

* Breathing is life. It changes with our mood an it can act as an anchor to bring us to the present.  Try this 3 minute breathing space  and feel the benefit for yourself.



How Do You 'Survive The Yomp'?

How Do You 'Survive The Yomp'?

Between 1942 and 1945 more than 20,000 Commandos were trained at Achnacarry, then a top secret location nestled in the Scottish Highlands. Such was their success Hitler issued an order stating Commandos were too dangerous to be held prisoner and should be executed immediately - Hitler's Commando Order

My father volunteered and was only eighteen when he went there. As a child I heard tales from him and his comrades of Artic conditions in the Scottish Highlands. In February they did route marches in deep snow and their wet hob nailed boots would freeze to the tin hut floor overnight so they’d have to put newspaper in them and set fire to it to get them off the floor. On entering the camp there was a line of graves with neat crosses just past the Regimental Police Post. Their purpose was to engender the right attitude. People died during training and there were many injuries. My Dad decided you should never be higher then fifth after seeing the four blokes in front of him jump off the twelve-foot wall into frozen mud and break their legs. The instructors then ordered him not to jump. They learnt unarmed combat, pistol shooting, rock climbing, basic demolitions, running straight down the castle wall on a rope, survival skills and first aid. He said it was much more fun than the Scouts. For their story and pictures of this fascinating history look at Commando Training

After learning how to survive Arctic conditions it came as no surprise when the Army in its wisdom sent them to the Far East for jungle warfare. They told tales of liberating POW camps and a ten-day fire fight. When I joined the Army his old Sgt Major advised me, with a smile on his face, not to volunteer for anything because the last time he did he and his troop were used as live ballast in a glider to see how many men they could carry without crashing! After the Second World War the Commando role went to the Royal Marines

When my friend Mark suggested doing the Commando challenge - Survive The Yomp  – 30 miles carrying 40 pounds at Achnacarry I jumped at the chance to visit the place I’d heard so much about as a child, including going around the Commando Memorial .  You don’t have to carry 40 lbs and you can take as long as you like to go around. Commandos are supposed to finish in under eight hours and officers under seven. Although I left the army a long time ago I still have some professional pride and I’m aiming for 6 hours 45 minutes.

I’m so lucky because I’ve got a new artificial leg to test. My first mistake was being over enthusiastic and packing all my survival kit so I’m well over forty pounds. A Royal Marine at the start laughs and advises me to off load knowing full well I don’t want to miss the opportunity of a character building experience. My friend Huw flies to Scotland and fills his ruck sack with two huge sacks of dog food to make his weight up which he’s giving to my dog at the end. Good, should last weeks.

We’re given a nice little map with the route on and we’re off round the loch. The sapphire blue water is surrounded by pine forest and rolling heather hills. A cloud smothers the sun making the loch grey green and the triangular pine mountains become sinister dark green and the heather hills change from violet to deep purple. Large drops of rain fall diluting the sweat on my face and it’s a lovely jog.

The rhythmic sound of our boots thuds on the ground.

My green Berghaus 120 litre rucksack with side panels is the biggest you can get which means I usually pack too much stuff. It’s an old friend who’s travelled the world with me for 25 years including some time in the Army (I bought it and didn’t steal it honestly), demining, more Kilimanjaro trips than I can remember and lots of quiet walks in the hills with your house on your back. I haven’t been out in torrential rain recently so it stinks of sweat.

I’m jogging round with Pierre who has more weight than me and he asks again ‘How do you motivate yourself?’

‘It’s mind over matter. You don’t mind and it doesn’t matter. How do you?’

He says ‘I don’t need to because I’m too busy waiting for you.’

After a very pleasant jog round we finish bang on target at six hours forty three minutes. We’re joint third and as we cross the line. In a recess of my mind I hear the voice of my dead Father saying ‘You prat, I said don’t come higher than fifth.’

My friends Huw and Mark come in next, we all loved the countryside and meeting the Marines who were excellent. It’s a great fun event so if you like the Scottish countryside and want to support the Royal Marines Charitable Trust take a look at Survive The Yomp

Next time my friends and I have decided not to take the Commando thing so seriously and are going to wear underpants…

Survivetheyomp15 1

How to Make the Best of Our Time

Need More Time?

August is one of the most beautiful months to see Scotland. Everything’s green, the evenings are still long and light and the rain’s nice and warm. I set aside mountain walking time and amidst the peace of diving swallows, grazing sheep and dancing unicorns I remind myself our most precious resource in life is time and we need to make the best of it and savour each second.

The English expression The Sands of Time refers to the flowing of sand through an hourglass. It’s constantly moving and attempting to race the recovery camel in the Marathon Des Sables taught me that if we don’t keep up we get left behind. I learnt that day managing our time effectively is about setting and achieving our goals and it’s not about racing around. If we don’t actively take ownership of our time we’ll end up busy fools and the sands of time will pass or smother us.

I had the good fortune to hear the entrepreneur James Caan speak and he said he rewarded his PA on the amount of time she saved him. In a recent interview he said time management is as important as education and he often speaks to business owners who have no idea how to manage their time

This of course raises the question how can we best manage our time and make more? For years I’ve helped people find their own answers in workshops and I’ve noticed what works for some people, doesn’t work for others and visa versa. I’ve encountered people who psyche themselves out and become less effective with lists and others who make their priority lists work like a well oiled machine and can’t function without them. The most important thing is we continually take ownership and develop a way that works for us. Check out this link for ideas and thoughts that we can use in our own way How to be ultra-productive -10 tips on mastering your time

What does it cost us if we don’t manage our time? For those without pressure and not much to do perhaps not a lot, but if they have any interaction with people who have time pressure their unplanned drifting can be toxic, destructive and damaging to others. Perhaps we have a responsibility towards the people in our lives to manage our time. Happy and effective people constantly work to positively manage it. The most healthy psychological state for a human being is when they feel they can control their life events, so the inevitable consequence of not controlling our time is going to be stress. For a health perspective and simple steps please click the link Time Management Tips

For people in business it can be very helpful to ask Is this economic activity that’ll help achieve key goals? For those running their own business and balancing child care and the need to earn these simple steps might be useful Six simple ways to make the most of your time

This is of course a huge subject, I could write so much more but unfortunately I don’t have time because I literally have to head for the hills. More importantly you probably don’t have time either so thanks for reading this and allow me to wish you the very best of luck with making the best of your time.