Mastering Mental Resilience: Energy’s Final Frontier

Grit and Resilience have been our focus topic for several months now. If you’ve been riding along with me on this exploration, I hope you’ve discovered the vital importance of spiritual, emotional and physical resilience in your career. Perhaps you’ve been effectively employing some of the tips, tools and techniques that have worked for DRIVEN’s clients. But even if you haven’t been taking advantage of these articles, you can still climb aboard and tap into the kind of resilience that’s born out of all the others. It’s called Mental Resilience, and it’s truly the most challenging to maintain.

Keeping Our Energies Aligned

Mental energy is a precious commodity, particularly for knowledge workers like you and me, who are paid for our brains. As an energy type, it’s also the most cherished, the scarcest, and the most susceptible to sabotage or breakdown. When your physical energy is teetering on exhaustion, or your emotional energy tank is running dry, your mental energy will fall victim by default. And when it comes to resilience, our mental energy plays a crucial role….it’s what allows us to make the best choices for pushing onward.

I bet you can think of a time or two when you made an important decision during an episode of exhaustion, hunger or frustration, and realized in hindsight it was an unsound decision. That’s because physical, emotional and spiritual energy each adversely affects our critical thinking! Not only is mental energy vulnerable when faced with our interior goings-on, it is also at the mercy of outside influences. Unless we remain vigilant, our mental energy is literally doomed. On the other hand, when all other forms of energy are aligned for us, it allows mental resilience to thrive. This optimally engages our prefrontal cortex (PFC), unleashing our creativity. When we are in this mentally nimble state, we can finally work in flow.

But beware those aforementioned outside influences. There surely lurks a perpetual threat to our creative state, which sometimes surfaces in the form of a sneak attack, drastically reducing our potential productivity. They’re called workplace interruptions and distractions, and it takes discipline and specific protocols to box them out and reinforce mental resilience.

Ditching Those Distractions

Having identified your roadblocks, you’re now prepared to become mentally gritty. So, let’s work on preventing and eliminating those potential distractions and interruptions. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. We’re all surrounded by distractions, which can set us up for a whole lot of “busy” with nothing to show for it. This is especially true for introverts, like me, who, as keen listeners, are easily distracted by sounds and need a quiet environment to concentrate. Needless to say, exposure to open office space and noisy co-workers are focus suicide for those in our camp.

Even with a quiet office space of our own, we are perpetually being distracted by our own computer— the device that allows us to be ultimately productive. How often do you get sidetracked when you see an IM show up on your screen, or hear the ping of your inbox getting dealt a message? I recently witnessed a prime example of such distraction in action while attending a webinar. The presenter was sharing her screen, revealing the countless and perpetual pop-up alerts she was receiving. Even I, as an attendee, was distracted from her presentation. The solution on both ends is to turn off your alerts, not just during presentations, but always! The small hit of dopamine you receive after each one isn’t worth the draining of your precious mental energy. We’ll delve more deeply into distraction and interruption later in this series. What you’ll discover is at once alarming, fascinating and avoidable.

Lured Away

The other way to get serious about mitigating distractions is to exhibit self-control when faced with the lure of click bait. We’ve all experienced it: one click on a link that someone emailed you, and an hour later you’re lost at the bottom of a rabbit hole somewhere on the internet or in the addictive realm of social media. We’re twice as likely to end up there when we’re tired or bored at work, since we don’t plan too smartly when we’re in one of these states of mind. Unless you’re proactive about how to focus your mental energy, you’re not maximizing it, and you become the next victim. But it’s not all bad news. In my next article, I’ll reveal a practical technique for avoiding this cyber pitfall, which has worked brilliantly for other DRIVEN professionals.