The 3 ‘C’s of Mental Resilience

14th May, 2018 by Alexa Carter

It is inevitable that we all face setbacks in life as it is an unavoidable precondition of taking risks – whether that’s taking a change in career, expanding your business or pitching an innovative new idea. With so many decisions made every day, it is unlikely that every one will be success after success. So in this inescapable state why do we not train ourselves to better prepare for these setbacks?  

Ann Cairns, the acting European CEO of Lehman Brothers after the 2008 crash, relates this to the recent financial crisis and the boom-bust cycle of capital market economies. We often forget that these events are not a “one off” and in fact, follow a cycle that is reportable through history – the Great Depression of 1929, the Tulip Crisis and the stock market crash of 1987 to name a few. Like people, companies can better prepare for events like these, to enhance their ability to bounce back in times of crisis.  

Resilience is defined as the “capacity to recover quickly from difficulty”, and has become one of the major buzzwords of 2018. The London Business School recently hosted a TEDx conference on this very subject, which included some key lessons and ideas shared on personal resilience.  

As a former Olympic rower, Cath Bishop took to the TED stage to talk about the need to be resilient in order to sustain optimum performance. She recounted one story, during Athens 2004, when her and her partner did not row well in one of the heats, placing a significant 7 seconds behind the opposition. Yet despite being knocked by this perceived failure, the pair went on to win a medal. During her talk, she relayed how her experiences as an Olympic athlete and former conflict diplomat highlighted three key C’s to developing mental resilience– Clarity, Constant Learning and Collaboration.  

Clarity is your focus and drive. It’s what gets you up the morning and what makes you see today as a good or bad day. Your ability to know yourself and understand what makes you tick, can be instrumental in controlling your energy and emotions to better reach your goals, and pull yourself back up when you get knocked down. So take a moment to ask yourself what gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you get excited about? What does success look like to you?  

Constant Learning is the need to think of yourself as a work in progress. The more experience and discussion you open yourself to, the more you learn and develop. Nelson Mandela once said “you win, or you learn”, which stresses a positive learning mindset, over the typical black and white “you win, or you lose”. It is often through struggle or failure that we learn the most, so make time to review and reflect on experiences before you move on to the next one.   

Collaboration is building and using a support system of people around you to help you work at your best. A feeling of connection with others is documented as a major driver of happiness, and so suggests that strong networks and relationships can make us more resilient to personal adversity. In a team environment, this works both ways so be aware of those around you and question why they may not be working at their best today. The “whole is more than the sum of its parts” describes the ability of a team to outperform the summative work of individuals alone. So being a support system for others at work cannot only be beneficial for them, but also to the performance of your team as a whole.  

Cath Bishop described resilience as like momentum; the more you have, the faster you go and the harder it is for someone to stop you in your tracks. So with these lessons in mind, maybe approach your day tomorrow with a few more questions, for yourself and for those around you; Approach your day with an appetite for new experiences that push you outside of your comfort zone, in an effort to fall but get back up again stronger; And approach your day with a team mindset, remembering that getting back up is quicker with a helping hand than alone.  


This article was written by Alexa Carter for Create Edge following the May 2018 Tedx Resilience conference 


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