Mental Fortitude or…Too Funny by Half!

Don Philpott☘️ in Adventure TherapyGlobal AR/VR Digital Strategy Director☘️ at • http://www.AD

Mental Fortitude or...Too Funny by Half!

Mental Fortitude or…Too Funny by Half!

Posted originally

on September 23, 2016 at 5:10 PM

My daughter often says to me; “I wish I didn’t have a father who thinks everything is funny!”

What she means (I think) is that my response to many normal events is flippant, meaning that she often gets exasperated with my perceived lack of seriousness.  This has been a theme throughout my life, with many observers feeling that I “drift through,”rather than “knuckle down.”  Yet, I’m nearly always brightest in my class, a leader in my chosen field and one of the best at what I commit myself to do. I would see viewing things lightly as a form of adaptive resilience, a “don’t sweat the small stuff” mentality or “life is short, why bother,” viewpoint.

This theme of positivity, resilience, or even questing for greatness has been a “serious” interest of mine for many years, actually.

In recent years resilience has been cast as the foundation stone of positive psychology, a new agey mish mash of ideas centred around some positive, growth based, theories.  I like a lot of it actually.  Where it gets a little hazy is when really bad, personality changing stuff happens to good people and you’re supposed to blithely brush it off with a “deal with it” approach. This is actually the same place I get to with my daughter – where she views my lack of seriousness as a lack of empathy or lack of care. Its the nexus of paralysis for positive psychology.

Resilience is supposed to include grit, positive ideation and a few elements of cognitive mapping.  To go through them one by one, “grit” is this element of stickingatitness or refusal to give up/give in, allied to a bit of metaphysical pain tolerance – imagine the prototypical cowboy on the back of the bronco. The positivity side is looking at the “glass half full.” For example you lose an arm in a bouldering accident and congratulate yourself on having a spare..which is that nice soldierly combination of determination, focus and looking to a positive future (for your side). The third bit, is the cognitive mapping, forcing yourself to rein check your brain check into a positive, optimistic frame, based on (to my mind:) a slightly plasticy view of neuroplasticity. You can see how the army barmy crew would lap this stuff up, and they did, adding it as a shiny new strut to their cognitive trick cycling machine.

I’m not down on resilience though, far from it! In many sporting illustrations, the ability to pick oneself back up and carry on is the lynchpin around which the hero earns greatness.  In the crucible or the arena, it’s only when things “get hot” do you see the true quality in the “go to guy.” In an outdoor setting, the leaders of the movement, Baden Powell (1857-1941) or Kurt Hahn (1886 -1974)  were very much soldierly types building “resilience” into their fresh charges (pun intended).

Where I do get a bit shirty is where re – silence turns into the myth of the superman, where through will, positive psychology or some Nietzschean aryan quality, its possible to prevail against all odds.

Think Clint Eastwood’s flinty stare and low spec vocab. This is where my hackles tend to rise. This is the mental meatloaf by which really nice lads in their twenties are sent off to dubious places to kill other boys in their twenties, or people with little or no experience climb Mweelrea in the gloaming with a pair of flip flops and a parka.

So the moral of this tale, is please do be gritty, positive and optimistic, but keep a weather eye for the right time to cash in your chips too. I call this “playing the percentages”(hardly a novel idea). Its the Michael Jordan type of greatness, where he only really came into his own in the fourth quarter. The right time, place and ability to effect meaningful change.

If you’re in a job that doesn’t enthuse you or your wife is your loving strife, then it may not be wise to just stick in there in sheer bloodymindedness. It may even be counter productive; like Roy Keane playing on with an obviously dodgy right hip in his last season at Man Utd – (even though I love his psychotic passion) he reminded me of a Monty Python character, with the sound of clip clopping coconuts in the background, vainly chasing after butterflies. Of course someone will shout from the back of the room; “wisdom is for the old, youth is reckless!” I would not argue that one…but I do tend to slide away from cliche tossers.

My daughter would say I pick and choose my battles. She is right, I call that “game management”…it’s a different type of resilience. In this type of resilience, you remain wise before the fact, pre-cognitively upskilling yourself for the inevitable. This is the mental training that a sense of humour gives you, that very human ability to look impending danger in the eye and seek another way.

By its nature, a sense of humour is a form of mental training designed to reconfigure logical and emotional bias in our conditioning. To be really funny, you have to have a grasp of absurdity, a feeling for communication and good timing. You have to see different facets of an issue, mold a new viewpoint and communicate that idea to others, succinctly. It is hard to sell a sense of humour as “science” though, especially to a 7 year old!

#Resilience #Strategy #Humour

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