Until recently, most coaching models have been focusing on creating high individual and team performance and helping people to increase their motivation to take action. Seldom was much consideration given to the effects of that singular focus on our mental health and wellbeing.
The coaching world is now catching up with the reality that focusing on high performance without considering our wellbeing, is looking for trouble. Research suggests that an obsession with performance without taking wellbeing into account, often leads to burnout, stress and low morale. Similarly, people who are stressed out or burned out don’t perform well at work.
It is therefore evident that in order to perform well at work, you need to look after your mental wellbeing. Mental resilience can help you cope with (and recover from) adversity and setbacks. If you are prepared to push yourself one step further, you will be able to develop mental toughness. Developing this skill will equip you to actively seek out challenges and prepare for them, rather than passively coping with them as they come. It will also equip you to actively strive to expand your comfort zone.
Learning to manage your anxiety is a crucial skill in developing resilience and toughness. There is no point sanitizing your environment in order to banish stress and challenges. Stress is an unavoidable ingredient of modern life, where the ancient reflexes of fight, flight or ‘freeze’ are not always doing service to the complexities we are experiencing in our daily existence. They key is in preparing to deal with a healthy amount of stress, rather than completely avoiding it.
Keyes (2007) and Grant (2012) have developed a model which is helpful in assessing where we are on that spectrum of mental wellbeing versus performance (you can read more details in this paper). The figure below gives an outline of their model:
The key to high wellbeing is to be functioning rather than languishing. Functioning can take two forms:
- coasting, whereby we are not highly engaged or actively striving to achieve goals, yet feel good about ourselves. For example when we are chatting with colleagues, surfing on social media before making a phone call or daydreaming at our desk in between meetings.
- flourishing, where our goal striving and engagement are high in such a way that we feel positively challenged, focused and in control, e.g. when we are in the flow of a professional conversation, a smooth sales transaction or an artistic creation.
Spending most of our working time coasting or flourishing, will keep your mental wellbeing at high levels. The aforementioned skills of mental resilience and especially mental toughness, will help you tackle challenges and adversity in an appropriate way, while keeping your anxiety levels at bay.