I was listening to a podcast this week (The Tim Ferriss Show) which focuses on interviewing elite performers and people who are at the forefront of research to dissect what it is they do and how they do it. I glean all sorts of insights from it and much of it fits into the principles I talk about to do with mental resilience. This particular episode was a guy (Charles Poliquin) who specialises in strength training (weight lifting). Now, although weight lifting is not an area of interest for me, he said something that really hit home as an amazing analogy when we think about mental strength and resilience in the face of stressors.
I paraphrase, but…
“You don’t know how strong a muscle is until it is put under strain”
Although the brain is not a muscle, the analogy is still important, because like a muscle the brain can grow and develop as we use and train it. There is extensive research into neuroplasticity which is the ability for the neurons in the brain to create new connections throughout our lifetime and thus, change, develop and grow.
For me the analogy is powerful: We don’t know how mentally strong we are unless we are put under strain.
Remember, mental resilience is something we can learn and develop, but just like a muscle, a one off training session is not enough. We must continuously train the brain with a variety of techniques to maintain our mental resilience. If you don’t go to the gym or exercise you lose physical strength, when we don’t train our brains for mental strength we lose mental resilience.
That is why recognising that problems do not have to be negative can be very powerful and give us a little more resilience. We can’t change other people, or control all events that may cause problems but we can look at them as challenges to get the best possible outcome in that situation for ourselves and others. This requires us to know and understand our strengths, as well as have techniques to reframe and think about the situation differently. These are two areas of training in the Positive Teacher Toolkit. Building resilience is about learning skills to manage emotions, think differently about situations and have strategies to manage our stress when it does arise. I know that when problems occur it can still be hard to pull out these tools, which is why the Positive Teacher Toolkit is set up the way it is. It provides training and support whenever you need it because you have access to an online database. If you would like to develop further mental resilience and get resources to use with your students you can get access here: Positive Teacher Toolkit.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.