by Professor Greg Whyte OBE - @gpwhyte

The current buzz word in performance is ‘resilience’. Whilst it is handy to capture a key concept in a single word, before too long the word is used so ubiquitously that nobody understands what is means or how it relates to their performance. In my opinion, there is absolutely no doubt that resilience is an imperative part of performance, but you do need to be clear on its definition. Here’s mine - ‘The ability to keep going when the shit hits the fan’!

Greg and Davina during sport relief challenge

- Davina McCall during her Sport Relief Challenge

The path to success is rarely, if ever, smooth. Even the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. Consider the planning that goes into a Sport Relief Challenge. In addition to the obvious physical preparation I spend a huge amount of time working on the psychological, nutritional and technical aspects of the challenge; not to mention, the logistical aspects including routes, filming, fund raising etc. These are huge challenges where, despite detailed planning and preparation, things go wrong particularly associated with factors beyond your control; and it doesn’t always take long for the excrement to fly! I remember Davina McCall’s Week of Hell. We set off on the first cycle leg from Edinburgh in some of the toughest conditions I have ever experienced; rain, sleet, snow, below zero temperature and 60 mph gusts of wind. In short, it was hell! After only three hours, and despite months of preparation, Davina cracked. I called for an emergency pit-stop during which the team and I worked closely with Davina to address the problems and within 30 minutes we were back on the road and on our way to completing the 120 miles of day one. A demonstration of remarkable resilience from Davina. Of course, this was not the only time during the challenge where resilience was called for; we all remember the Lake Windermere swim!

greg and david

- David Walliams during her Sport Relief Challenge

These bumps along the path to success are generally manageable if you have a plan. Using an ‘If, Then’ plan (‘If’ this happens, ‘Then’ this is the solution), you can avoid a problem becoming a challenge ending failure. Of course, resilience is not just about dealing with isolated problems as they arise. When I am swimming open water in skins (nothing but a pair of budgie smugglers!) there is an issue that is omnipresent; the cold! It’s a situation where, rather than the poop hitting the fan, your fan is continually submerged in it from the first stroke to the very last stroke. You can’t escape it; you have to deal with it. This is not unlike many challenges, particularly when you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (i.e. a physical challenge) or making major changes to your behaviour (i.e. losing weight). These types of challenges call for resilience by the bucket load to ensure success. Creating strategies to manage the misery is an important part of my approach for me and those I support. My favourite of which is David Walliams’ strategy when we swam the English Channel. In addition to positive self-talk, which can make a massive difference, we worked on displacing the misery by substituting his thinking with something entirely different. As a result, he sang the back catalogue of ABBA! Albeit successful, it’s a strategy I am yet to emulate!

So, whenever you set yourself a goal remember that you will need to develop strategies to cope with the faecal matter coming your way; whether it is flying at you, or you are submerged in it. How you cope will dictate how resilient you are, and inevitably how successful you will be.