Today is a special day. Through the post arrived copies of my new book Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches (McGraw Hill). The title makes clear what it is about and who it is written for. I obviously hope it will help coaches do good work with their clients, but my excitement is about more than seeing the front cover and hoping it will do well in Amazon’s rankings. It is the excitement of realising that I have written something that I could not have imagined doing 5 years ago.
The genesis of this book came from working with a particular client who I felt I failed. I did not recognise that his resilience had left him, because I was used to seeing a man who was confident, successful and achieving. When he seemed changed, I assumed I was meeting him on a ‘bad day’ and worked with him on the symptoms of that day, rather than realising what was really going on. When he eventually became ill, I was shocked at what I had not seen, and it jolted me into action. I began reading on resilience, I went on workshops and eventually I signed up to do doctoral research on resilience from the perspective of coaching. I completed the doctorate and the outcome of that process is the book which McGraw Hill/OU Press have now published.
The book is a symbol of my learning, but it is also a marker of my own resilience. I started a doctorate many years ago and abandoned it, although the conditions to complete it could not have been easier. I was working in a business school. I had easy access to organisations. My fees were paid. I could legitimately claim time to study. Yet, I abandoned the work because it failed to make my heart sing. I could see no purpose in doing the work, other than getting a qualification. This time around, I achieved a doctorate despite working full time, paying my own way, having to negotiate access and giving up weekends and holidays. What got me up at 5am in the morning to write before going to work, was not the lure of a qualification, but the desire to learn and for that learning to strengthen my own work .
And, there was another reason: I drew on the role modelling of my mother. She had died shortly before I began the doctorate. She was a feisty woman who had left school at 13, and who began studying in her 40’s, so that she could win a place to train to be a nurse. The memory of her getting up on a dark winters’ morning to ride her moped to a hospital many miles away; working nights, and somehow managing to care for 3 children as a single parent, without ever complaining, stayed with me. Her example sustained me as I wrote. At times I could even hear her voice telling me to just keep going.
Resilience research repeatedly reports 2 key themes in those who get through tough times:
- The power of having a purpose
- The importance of having support
My own experience supports those themes, but what I have also learnt is that support can be virtual. As much as it is enormously valuable to have friends and family who are physically there for us, it is also true that we can create our own virtual support system. Calling on people who are no longer present in our lives, but who model qualities which can help us achieve our goals, can be as powerful as having them physically present. It is a tactic reported by people who have been taken captive. As they live day to day in the harshest of conditions, they imagine those who love them talking to them with encouragement, and they use their voices to keep them going. Asking ourselves “What would . . . say to me if they were here right now?” can be a powerful motivator in tough times.
So, as I look at the book, I am celebrating not just the journey that took me from a feeling inadequate in my understanding of resilience, to being able to write a book about it, I am also celebrating the parental voice that kept me going.
If you are facing a challenge which is testing your resilience right now, then ask yourself:
- Do I have a purpose in getting me through this?
- Who can I draw on for support, even if they are not physically here for me?
You can find out about the book by watching the video at www.carolepemberton.co.uk