Wondering how to build resilience? Start by establishing your Base Camp and embracing your comfort zone.
If you want to reach great heights you need a safe haven where you can build resilience, reset and recharge.
It may have been 14 years ago but I still remember it vividly – the nausea, exhaustion and splitting headache as I returned to Base Camp after yet another rotation – the process of climbing up and down Mount Everest over and over again to progressively reach higher altitudes and acclimatise. I hadn’t yet entered the “Death Zone” but I already felt like death.
After taking time to rest, I pushed past 7,000 metres | 23,000 feet for the first time ever. As the wind howled and the visibility worsened, I reached a near-vertical section of the mountain. The urge to call it quits for the day was strong but knowing that I would soon be back to the relative safety of Base Camp, stirred me to push through pain barriers and beyond my perceived limits. Base Camp enabled me to get past 7,000 metres, then 8,000 metres, then just shy of 9,000 metres | 30,000 feet to stand on the top of the world.
As a keynote speaker on resilience, I love sharing this story because it marked a shift in my perception of what resilience means and reconfigured my understanding of a comfort zone, which is defined as “a situation where one feels safe or at ease.” When faced with indescribable levels of stress and pressure, Base Camp became a safe haven to reset and recharge so I had the mindset and energy reserves to dig deep when I needed to.
Resilience builds through purpose plus persistence
When someone says the word “resilience”, what comes to mind? You may envisage someone tough and intimidating like a soldier or a marine. But resilience isn’t about being strong and infallible, it’s something that emerges from purpose plus persistence. Your purpose doesn’t have to be taking on the world, it just has to be something meaningful to you, something you can work towards by staying focused and agile. One of my favourite recent definitions of resilience is from Olympic athlete, Sarah Wells who defined it as, “Finding significance in those challenges we face, uncovering those lessons, and applying them to that next opportunity.”
Resilience is underpinned by the desire to be a better you. It’s something all of us can develop and build throughout our lives. We just need to balance the time we spend climbing up life’s mountains and retreating to a safe haven.
Everyone’s safe haven, or Base Camp, looks different. It could be a physical place, like a tent in the freezing Himalayas. It could also be an activity or a person. My cousin, Michael, needs his morning surf to start the day on the right foot while my friend, Edith, finds calm in going for long walks with her neighbour, sometimes talking non-stop and sometimes staying silent.
Your Base Camp is about what works for you – an activity, place or person that offers respite from life’s storms while helping you connect with your why and focus on self-care. When we spend time in that safe space, we become better equipped to adapt to challenges and recover from setbacks. We emerge able to keep progressing towards our goals no matter what storms or vertical climbs we face.
If you’re a Simon Sinek fan like me, you’ll understand the importance of defining your Why or North Star. Simon describes your North Star as your true purpose. It’s what you’re striving towards when you’re at your natural best. We’re not always at our natural best, it’s something we have to constantly strive for but defining what we’re hoping to achieve or become, keeps us moving towards it.
We can’t define or reflect on our North Star if we are constantly on the edge or pushing our absolute limits, we need to disengage from our fast-paced and stressful world to calm our minds and refill our depleted tanks. Just like returning to Base Camp helped focus and fuel me for the challenges ahead, retreating to your safe haven can focus and fuel you towards fulfilling your greatest goals.
The role of self-care in building resilience
If you’ve read my previous blog on resilience, you’ll know that I believe resilience is like a muscle; something we can all develop no matter our circumstances. Taking care of ourselves ensures that our minds and our bodies are primed to deal with adversity. Your form of self-care might be carving out time to exercise, travelling with friends, reading a book in bed or enjoying a meal with someone special to you. It’s easy for these things to fall down our priority list when life gets busy and stressful but that’s when we need them the most.
Self-care and resilience are cyclical. The more we focus on self-care, the more we build resilience. And the more we build resilience, the more we’re able to focus on self-care. For example, someone who sleeps well will have higher resilience and someone with higher resilience will tend to sleep well. In its 2022 Global Resilience Report, The Resilience Institute identified the five most important factors differentiating those with high resilience from those with low resilience. In order of importance, they were:
- Sleep quality – a good night’s sleep to reset the body and brain each day.
- Fulfilment – a clear reason why or an articulated purpose.
- Bounce – a learned set of skills that enables us to recover quickly after facing adversity.
- Relaxation – the ability to make time for relaxation and contemplation.
- Focus – protecting our focus and building our capability to hold focus on what matters.
You’ll notice that none of the factors relate to a “suck it up and soldier on” approach. All of them relate to self-care. Now ask yourself, what are you doing to support these areas in your own life? How much time are you spending in your safe haven? What’s your Base Camp?
When people think of Mount Everest they tend to focus on the summit – the euphoria and triumph of reaching the top. But Base Camp is just as meaningful and important. Without it, I never would have stood 8,848 metres | 29,029 feet above sea level. No one would.
If you want to build your own or your team’s resilience, think about how you can ensure the demands of work don’t inhibit relaxation and contemplation. Create a retreat from the fast-paced world where you can connect with your North Star and build your skills. As you find more time to retreat, you’ll emerge a more resilient person with the ability to aim high, bounce forward and reach new heights.
What adventure can we take you on next?
Daniel Bull is a three-time world-record-breaking adventurer and inspirational speaker. He specialises in empowering leaders and teams to become more resilient, fulfilled and successful, whatever challenges they face.
Focusing on resilience, leadership, teamwork, mindset and peak performance, Daniel inspires audiences with his passion and authentic presence. His spectacular footage combined with the latest digital technology creates an exhilarating and highly interactive experience.
As a keynote speaker who’s headlined live, virtual and hybrid conferences, Daniel inspires audiences to find their own summits and tackle them with confidence.