Future Focus-Wellbeing and Resilience
Future Focus is all about remembering that life is not always negative even though it may seem like that. It is worth remembering that when we are in a hard place.
The dark tunnel is like being in a valley, it’s tough, it’s dark, it’s painful. But it will not always be like that. It is not a permanent state.
There are times when there are joyful things and there are times when they’re happy things. So, it’s really important during those times to mark the spot and celebrate to be joyful, to be appreciative, to be thankful. Because those are the currencies which help us when we are down to remember the happy times, to remember the joyful times, to remember the celebrations that we’ve had. So that acts as a buffer sometimes when we are down. The mountain top experiences help us in the valley.
We shouldn’t miss those mountain top experiences because they’re just as important as those dark dreary tunnel-like valley -like experiences, which we all go through because we are human.
It is crucial to remember that if you are dealing with an issue or concern, you are never alone, alone never. Sometimes it might feel that way. Sometimes it might sound that way, but you’re never alone ever! The second thing is we are always at choice, always at choice. We may not choose what happens to us. But we can actually choose our response to what happens to us.
There are occasions that we can’t exercise our choice, because our choice is taken away from us and that is really sad and painful. Those times and experiences are different situations and require totally different responses… When we are at choice, we gain greater control as we can choose our response to the situation and not let the situation take control of us.
I have found it helpful to reach out and ask for help when I need it. Most times people respond positively to being asked. It helps me when I am clear about the type of help that will support me, and by accepting help when it’s offered. I find that I am more resilient as a person and in my professional life. I’m more resilient in delivering what I need to deliver to myself, others and life. I’m better able to be real, authentic and I give myself permission to be vulnerable. These days I am comfortable in knowing that I am perfectly imperfect and that is ok!
Tesse Akpeki is the founder of the Wellbeing and Resilience Leadership Initiative
Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host Tesse Akpeki, and co-host me Paula Okonneh. Where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning every day that leadership is personal and professional, and we hope you can walk with us in this adventure. Today’s an interesting day because I am interviewing the host Tesse Akpeki. And I want to welcome her to “TesseTalks”, where she’s the host. And today we will be talking about something that’s very interesting to the two of us and I’m sure to our listeners as well. We’re going to be talking about future focus, wellbeing, and resilience. Tesse I’m happy to have you on your own show. This is so fun.
00:00:55 Tesse: 00:00:55 You know Paula, I never gave up on an opportunity to do what I like doing best with someone who I like doing it with. And so it’s my pleasure to be on the show with you.
00:01:05 Paula: 00:01:05 Thanks, you’re making me blush.
00:01:08Tesse: 00:01:08 It’s so true, so true darling.
00:01:13Paula: 00:01:13 That’s true, that’s true. This is the anniversary of your resilience and wellbeing leadership initiative. Congratulations Tesse, but tell us why did you set it up in the first place?
00:01:24 Tesse: 00:01:24 Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. For many years, over 20 years I’ve worked with governing bodies and particularly of nonprofit boards. Although more recently it’s been at private sector boards and boards in local authorities and social services and public bodies. And what I realized was that boards could be aware of what the legal roles and responsibilities are. And they could have all the training in the world and still fall into jeopardy, still fall into problems, still be dysfunctional. And I thought to myself, what is it that can make a difference to these boards? They have all the information they need really, have all the training that they really need to be good boards. What is missing? And I came up with one missing component and that was their behaviors. It was the kind of what are called human skills. Sometimes people say soft skills, but they’re not so soft. It’s, it’s, it’s human skills of how to have difficult conversations, how to have tricky conversations. And I began to realize that environment where people feel safe, and where they feel respected, and where they feel valued and acknowledged, and also where they’re able to deal with conflict. These environments were the ones that actually twinned with knowing what their roles responsibilities are, and also having sufficient training. These are the boards that excelled, these were the boards that did well. And then as I continued on this journey and started doing deep dive conversations and facilitating these conversations. It occurred to me that the question of r And then as I did even more work on that, things around wellbeing and wellness began to occur.resilience was part of this kind of environment of psychological safety and psychological standing. So really what happened with me was that I wanted to create a space where I could bring people and organizations together with each other, to discover what they could do to support each other and to actually be more resource to do that. So last year, In April 2020, I set up the network called the wellbeing and resilience leadership initiative as a virtual network. And I was pleasantly surprised when it took off where I did it, and it was a soft launch on Linkedin. And people just kept on contacting me. It , brought leaders together to look at resilience and to look at wellbeing. And when I say people brought together, it wasn’t just board members I had wanting to join and wanting to make contact with me. And I was plenty surprise that there was a need for this kind of network, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, coaches, mentors, some artists. The mix of people coming together to say, we want to be in this space and we wanted to be connected. So yeah, it’s really been a good thing to do, and I’m glad that I started.
00:04:30 Paula: 00:04:30 That’s excellent. As you said, people were mixture from all fields and from all backgrounds, it seems like. So what are you learning along the way?
00:04:39Tesse: 00:04:39 What i’m going to do with this is, I’m going to segue into a few definitions and then I’ll land on what I’m learning. So I was looking up the definition of psychological resilience and the definition I came up with is the ability and capacity to withstand and adapt to uncertainty, to challenges and to adversity, and too emotionally caught with crises. So when we’re looking at things around psychological resilience, we’re looking at coping, we’re looking at controlling, we’re looking at competence, we’re looking at confidence, we’re looking at connection, character and contribution. And this becomes meaningful with kind of building optimism that involves embracing the past. And realistically assessing the present while focusing on the future. So future focus is important, but actually if future focus is not as robust in building resilience once you look at where you’re coming from and where you are now.
And then I thought, well that’s interesting that’s cool, when I look at things about wellness. Because wellness was something that was really kind of bantered about, and it could mean anything. But for me, wellness is an empowering process of change and growth. And this enables flourishing, it enables nourishing and it, it enables striving. And then another term that is usually used is wellbeing. And I thought how is wellness different from wellbeing? Well, it is different because wellness delivers a sense of meaning and an ability to manage stress and embrace life with positivity. So you see, these are things that are used interchangeably, yet they’re not interchangeable, they do different things. So resilience does something from wellness, and wellness does something from wellbeing. And so wellbeing can lead to wellness and resilience can lead to wellness as well. But resilience itself continues to develop in how people understand it.
And this is where my learning comes in. Because many years ago, when I came across the term resilient, it was always used in the, in a sense of a bounce back. What is a bounce back? You know, that you have a ball and it bounce back, et cetera. And something did not sit right with me with that bounce back thing. Yes it’s bounce back. But for me, it was like. If you have a ball which has lost it’s air and it doesn’t bounce back? Does that mean that the ball has lost its resilience? And so it was that thing about, what is more than it bounce back that is part of resilience.
And I started to explore this and I felt that fragility is actually part of resilience. Fragility, brokenness is part of resilience. And when I am broken, I find it hard to bounce because I’m broken I’m in pieces. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not resilient. It just means that I’m experiencing another part of resilience. The other bit that can make for resilience is actually risk-taking. In taking risk in actually going into growth mindset, experiencing new things, things that I’m afraid of, things that scare me, that by entering into that space of experimentation and of not being afraid of failure. But even if I do fail knowing that I can learn from it, that’s all part of resilience.
So for me, what I’m learning is that resilience can be about bounce back, it can be about fragility, it can be about risk-taking and brokenness and actually resilient invites, vulnerability and authenticity. So that’s the struggle of when I am struggling to cope. And yet I keep going, I keep persevering. That’s all part of resilience. So I suspect that the whole understanding of what resilience is will continue to develop as we continue to navigate a world that is changing.
Where there’s so much uncertainty, where there’s so much anxiety. And when we’re beginning to feel that we don’t always have control over what’s going to happen next. And that would call it on a certain level of being resilient.
00:08:57 Paula: 00:08:57 A very in-depth answer. And you broke it down to saying wellness is different from wellbeing, different from resilience. But I noticed you focus a lot on resilience. Could that be anything to do with the times we are living in, our listeners, we’re not dating the podcast, but we’re making it relevant. So this is 2021, and this is the early part of 2021. So the pandemic is real. So Tesse my question to you is. Did you focus more on the different definitions of resilience? which I have here as fragility, brokenness, fear, bounce back, vulnerability, perseverance. Because these are things that people need to be aware of a year into the pandemic.
00:09:45 Tesse: 00:09:45 Very, very important that you’ve drawn this particular learning out about breaking it down and focusing on resilience. And The World Health Organization, has said that the pandemic and post pandemic will be a time where we will see people and organizations and our society impacted by mental health challenges, an increase in anxiety, an increase in the impact of uncertainty. And we already see that happening with an increase in suicide.
People experiencing suicidal thoughts, people feeling isolated, people, feeling lonely. We’ve seen a lot of breakup of relationships, we’ve seen an increase in people being stressed and worried, and we’ve also seen an increase in people who are feeling frustrated. And they actually work out their frustration sometimes in very unhelpful ways. And resilience comes to life. Because in building up our capacity, our capability, our capacity to be resilient, we’re better able either as individuals or as organizations, or as a society to navigate these very tricky situations that actually are with us to stay.
We get better, being optimistic and not denying the reality of what we’re facing. But actually embracing that reality with optimism and with hope and with a kind of ability to make it an opportunity that works for us.
00:11:29 Paula: 00:11:29 I love that “embracing the opportunity that makes it work for us”. I wanted to ask you to give us two principles that has guided this pathway towards wellbeing and resilience?
00:11:42 Tesse: 00:11:42 That is a really good question. These are two principles that I have found very important, and that is to stay with what is happening, to lean into what is going on. Not to move away from, because by “leaning into” we actually sketch stronger. We exercise that muscle of leaning in and we become more agile, become more responsive, we become more fluid and we actually become better problem solvers. Because we are leaning into what is the situation that we see in front of us.
And the other thing I would call it is, “abiding with”, being with, walking with, sitting with, actually to accompany. And this shows up in a real life situation by allyship accompanying, compassionate, accountability. So the compassionate being, understanding, and connecting with somebody with the situation, with the feeling, with the empathy. So that’s the kind of compassionate.
Accountability is holding ourselves accountable as we hold others accountable. As we begin to highlight what is meaningful to us in a situation and see what the impact of that meaning is. As we journey towards what we find meaningful and purposeful. So they are abiding with and the being way. But also that whole thing about the bigger picture that occurs in the midst of uncertainty.
00:13:25 Paula: 00:13:25 Very powerful principles, especially as we are still in the pandemic. Hopefully moving away out of it slowly but surely. But it’s really good to know that we can lead into and abiding with and being with these emotions that come up during these times.
This is a very serious topic that we will continue to explore. This is Tesse leaning in and giving us tips on how to go about being well, how to be resilient. But at the same time, focusing on the future. For our listeners this is something that she’s really wanted to talk about, it has been on her heart for a long time.
So this is “TesseTalks” and the wellbeing and resilience initiative has been something that you said you’ve been doing for a year or rather the resilience and wellbeing leadership initiative is something you’ve been doing for a year. Now, if people want to know more about that, how do they get in touch with you?
00:14:26 Tesse: 00:14:26 Thank you very good question. By visiting the website, which is “tesseakpecki.com”. Or LinkedIn, they can get in touch with me through LinkedIn or even through the podcast. We have email “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Those are the ways, and I’m happy to say that I’m being dragged into modern times and I’m now on Instagram. so “TesseTalks” Podcast and “TesseLeads” podcast are easy ways to connect with me.
00:14:55Paula: 00:14:55 Right, so are there any key messages you want to leave with our listeners as we wrap this up?
00:15:00 Tesse: 00:15:00 Yeah, the key messages I’d like to give. And the first one is that anyone listening to this, anyone dealing with an issue are never alone,they’re never alone never. Sometimes it might feel that way. Sometimes it might sound that way, but you’re never alone ever. The second thing is we are always at choice, always at choice. We may not choose what happens to us. But we can actually choose our response to what happens to us. And it is very rare that we can’t exercise our choice. I know that sometimes there are situations that we’ll be dealing with those situations where our choice is taken away from us, and that’s a different situation. But often we are are at choice, so we can choose our response to the situation.
And that actually makes us more resilient because we feel more in control of our choices when they come from us. And the third thing, particularly as we talk about people who maybe experiencing downtimes, feel out of sorts, feel lost and lonely and so on. It’s okay not to be okay, it’s okay not to be okay. These are really simple things, but even through my own personal experience, whether it’s professional or personal. I found that by reaching out to ask for help when I need it, by being very clear about the type of help that will support me, and by accepting help when it’s offered. I find that I am more resilient as a person and in my professional life, I’m more resilient in delivering what I need to deliver. Because I’m better able to be authentic and I give myself permission to be vulnerable.
00:16:56Paula: 00:16:56 Well said, especially in these times. It is okay not to be okay. Yes. So many people are not okay and they feel ashamed or embarrassed, admitted. But we all go through things, we all going through this pandemic together and we cope with it in different ways. But when we understand that lots of people are not okay. They’re just not showing it to us. It means that we do have a big wide world out there to say I am not okay.
00:17:30 Tesse: 00:17:30 Yeah.
00:17:30 Paula: 00:17:30 And get the help that you need.
00:17:32 Tesse: 00:17:32 Yeah, definitely, definitely. And I think one of the things that closes that off is that it’s not all negative when we are in a hard place. It’s a Valley, it’s tough, it’s dark, but it’s not always like that. It’s not a permanent state, there are times when there are joyful things and there are times when they’re happy things. So it’s really important during those times to mark the spot and celebrate to be joyful, to be appreciative, to be thankful. Because those are the currencies which help us when we are down to remember the happy times, to remember the joyful times, to remember the celebrations that we’ve had. So that acts as a buffer sometimes when we are down. So really to summarize the mountain tops experiences help us in the Valley. And so we shouldn’t miss those mountain top experiences because they’re just as important as those dark dreary tunnel-like Valley-like experiences, which we all go through because we are human.
00:18:37Paula: 00:18:37 Amen to that sister. Amen.
00:18:39Tesse: 00:18:39 Thank you. Amen Thank you.
00:18:42 Paula: 00:18:42 And to our listeners, please head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else where you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe to “TesseTalks”. If you love what you’re hearing, please write us a raving review. And if you have questions or topics you’d like us to cover related to leadership or governance send us a note. Remember it can be personnel as well as professional. Even more importantly, if you want to be a guest on “TesseTalks” head over to “tesseakpeki.com/tessetalks” to apply. Thank you Tesse for this wonderful time.
00:19:27 Tesse: 00:19:27 Thank you Paula. Always a joy, , always a joy.