Like many people, I didn’t give the concept of resilience a second glance during the first half of my life. As a child growing up within the armed forces, I was well used to change and uncertainty - so when life hurled its usual plot twists at me, I tended to simply keep calm…and carried on.
Until September 2010.
My husband and I had emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand four years previously and enjoyed setting up a near idyllic lifestyle together. Little did we know that a disruption of epic proportions lay around the corner in the form of the most destructive earthquakes ever to occur in this part of the world.
For six long years, the ground bucked, swayed and generally threw us around thanks to the Christchurch and North Canterbury earthquake sequences. We (and over 250,000 other families) lost our home, our workplaces and very nearly our minds as we navigated the turmoil that came with the quakes.
It was unimaginable.
We realised pretty quickly that life would never be the same again. Despite the resilience rhetoric, there was to be no “bouncing back” from this life changing experience. Physiologically we returned to a normal state of heart rate, blood pressure and adrenalin levels, but we were totally different people because of what we had seen and endured.
We also realised that we faced a choice about how the next chapter of our lives would unfold; whether we thrived or simply survived depended solely on our knowledge about navigating significant and unexpected stress, and the personal choices we made as a result.
We chose to thrive.
As a result of my professional work, I was invited to work alongside the teams rebuilding the region and found myself exploring the academic research coming out of the Christchurch experience.
What we learned about the science of wellbeing (which for the record, is what creates resilience) is now widely regarded globally as leading edge, so I became determined to find ways to help others understand how to grow stronger despite stressful times in life - because personal earthquakes take many forms.
Grief, sickness, loss…these personal earthquakes disrupt lives around the world every day, so I began speaking about strategies to continue enjoying life even when it’s in turmoil.
Our lessons have found their way into a multitude of resources; Resilience at Work (the Book), Let’s Talk Resilience at Work (the workshop series), Leading with Strength and GROW Your Team (resources for leaders), The Kite Support wellbeing app and the Crafted Career Programmes (online learning).
Now the lessons are also part of the NOTCH family, with a collection that showcases simple everyday choices that create strength and includes an explanation of the science behind the scenes.
My own NOTCH bracelet reminds me that “anything is possible” if I choose the five strategies which are personal to me.
I believe that many humans are at a crossroads, with one road travelling the path of continued anxiety, huge stress, and significant burnout.
But there is another path that all of us can choose; one that has science and research to support it.
Standing at the crossroads of my own life back in 2010, I could never have imagined where my experiences would take me and although I’d love to go back in time and undo the earthquakes, I will be forever grateful that they helped me to understand how to live a Stronger Life.