How to become more resilient and succeed in work and life

Tougher Minds Founder Dr. Jon Finn explains how we can all use techniques from behavioural science to become more resilient and start to feel better and do better in work and life.

He outlines how we can start building more helpful habits and the process our brains go through to become more resilient.

You can listen to this Tougher Minds podcast on your platform of choice. Subscribe for instant access to the latest episode.

Apple Podcasts


Google Podcasts



Improve your resilience and leadership for FREE

Podcast Transcription

Hi, everyone, this is Dr Jon Finn, welcome to another Tougher Minds podcast. You’ve guessed it, I’m out walking again. And I’m just reflecting.

Resilience is talked about an awful lot. But I think often people are not really sure what it means.

Worrying too much beating myself up, none of that stuff’s particularly good for me. So, it’s being good at doing what we call intelligent self watching. And watching ourselves in an intelligent way.

The second part of being resilient, then is being able to take action, and build better habits to replace those unhelpful habits that are making you do the unhelpful things. So that’s the way that we’ve seen resilience, it’s about getting good at recognising when you pay attention to unhelpful things. And also, once you recognise the unhelpful things you’re doing, it’s getting good at building new habits, to replace those unhelpful habits that are making you do the unhelpful things. Now, we know that we can all build new habits because our brain is like plasticine. And it changes by the process called neuroplasticity. And all that means is that the neurons in your brain  – of which there are about 100 billion of them –  are like plasticine, they’re remould and they re-shape.

And we want to use our willpower to resist doing the unhelpful thing. And to do what is more helpful for us. And willpower, as we describe it, resides in the prefrontal cortex. And that is the part of the brain we use to put the brakes on our behaviour, whether it’s our unhelpful thinking or resisting reaching out and grabbing for that biscuit, or making ourselves go to bed on time, whatever it is, that we do use willpower to help us to do that. It sparks the change process, if you like. But what we also need to recognise is that willpower is a limited resource. And just on its own, it won’t be enough to help us to create sustainable change to build sustainable, new healthful habits. In order to do that, we have to use insights from behavioural science.

And that means that we need to understand what are the things that influence what we can do and what we get in the habit of doing. What we need to understand is that these things are often invisible. And therefore they’re often difficult to manage and control. Behavioural science is quite a complex discipline. And there are many very famous experts who’ve pioneered different strands of behavioural science. But not one of those strands explains everything about what we need to do, to actually manage ourselves and ultimately make sustainable change.

So in order to make behavioural science, really accessible, and really, really usable, whether you want to use it to build better habits for your wellbeing, for your performance, for your leadership, whether you want to get people building better habits, to drive a more successful culture, as we enter the new world of hybrid working. These nine factors are absolutely essential to understand and actually activate in order to help people to build the type of habits they’re going to need to build in order to be successful. So what are the main factors?

Number one is mindset.

If you do not believe you can change, if you do not understand that your brain is like plasticine, and it’s changing all the time,  and you get good at what you practice, you’re going to be less inclined to successfully change. You know, you’re probably not even going to try to change because you just think that you’re fixed.

So mindset is the first factor that we need to activate. And that’s why we always begin training and our coaching by educating people about how their brain works, and showing them that they can change.

And they do, they are going to get better at the things that they practice, for better and for worse. The second factor is what we call the habit factor.

So if we’re going to successfully make change, it’s going to be in tiny, little steps. Often, this is where people fail, because they try to make changes that are too big and unattainable.

They fail to change, they beat themselves up and then develop a mindset that they can’t change, and they are just what they are.

So you’ve got the mindset factor, the habit factor. Next, we’ve got the personal motivation factor. If we want to compel our APE Brain and HUE, to actually get on board and help us to make successful change, then, we need….. it’s easier to do that if we have a reason why. So we have big goals, we create a tool called the FAM story. And this is the ‘future ambitious, meaningful’ story tool that allows people to set goals about their future selves, and connect goals about what they might want to achieve in the next 10 years, for example, to the sort of goals that they’re gonna have to achieve in the next one to four years to get that stuff achieved in 10 years. And then to achieve the things they’re going to have to achieve in the next 12 months if they want to achieve their one to four year goals. And then what goals do they need to achieve this month?

And to do that, what do they need to achieve this this week? And today, what do we need to achieve today? So we have to, we have to activate the personal motivation factor that’s going to help us to make successful change. The next factor we call personal knowledge and personal skills. Let’s just say that I want to build a better stress management habit. I know that I want a need to do that, and I might have all the motivation in the world to want to do it. But without new knowledge and skills, I might not be able to do it. Because I don’t actually know how to manage my stress Well, I might want to build better habits to become, what we call a Team Power leader. But without knowledge and skills, I won’t be able to do it, because I don’t know what I need to do to become a better leader. So knowledge and skills, for many of the difficult things……. difficult, really rewarding habits that we want to build are absolutely essential.

The next one, and it’s connected to that, is what we call community knowledge and skills. If I want to build a better stress management habit, or become a better leader, and loads of people around me understand what the source of knowledge and skills that I might need to manage stress better, and to become a better leader. That’s really helpful for me. So community knowledge and skills is another essential change factor, one that we need to consider if we’re going to make change happen successfully and sustainably. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve created a programme of work, which makes very complex science very simple, so that everyone can understand this, and can start to use the Tougher Minds insight to support everyone in our community, from colleagues, to partners, to children, etc.

So, so far, we’ve got the mindset factor, we’ve got the habit factor, we’ve got the personal motivation factor, we’ve got the personal knowledge and skills factor. And we’ve got the community knowledge and skills factor. The next one is what we call social influence. So we know that the APE Brain, the P in the APE brain stands for  perceived, we know that we are hugely influenced by the important people in our lives. And we often model and copy their behaviour. So that if we want to build new habits, we need to be hanging around with people that are already doing the types of things we want to do.

Or if we want to collectively build new habits, we need everyone to be practising what they’re preaching. And actually, everyone working on themselveS…… the foundational idea of building a really good culture……. so that’s social influence. The next one is rewards and penalties. And the APE brain really understands this. So let’s take driving as an example. If you drive well you get rewarded. In the first instance you get a driving licence, and the car insurance goes down, etc. And if you drive poorly, you get penalised. You get points on your licence, you get monetary fines, car insurance goes up eventually you’ll lose your licence. In our work if we perform well, hopefully we get rewarded and if we don’t we get penalised etc. And we see these reward and penalty systems everywhere in society……reinforcing behaviour.

If we want to change our own behaviour and others, we’ve got to understand that. And we’ve got to understand how to structure rewards and penalties in an appropriate way to actually help them to build the habits that are going to be helpful for them and for the team, etc. This is where gamification would fit in. And we have a model that sits underneath the Nine Action Factors model, and it has over 200 rules. And I’d say 50 plus of those rules are about gamification, rewards and penalties. It’s quite a complex area, but quite a fun area to work on and actually, to help to design environments, and systems that reward and penalise the right types of behaviour, but absolutely essential that we understand it is so important for building new habits. The next area is what we call external, physical and digital triggers. These are the reminders in our environment of what we need to do something. So if we take the driving example, again… soon as you get into a modern car now, there are triggers and reminders to do the right things. So if you don’t put your seatbelt on, you get a ping, ping ping. You can see how quickly you’re driving through the speedometer, there is a line in the middle of the road to remind you which side of the road to drive on. There are zebra crossings and traffic lights and speed cameras, all designed to get you to do safe driving behaviours, because governments have recognised when they don’t have those triggers in place, the car accident rates go up.  The smartphone, which you may be listening to this podcast on right now is possibly the most successful triggering device of all time; it’s excellent at getting your attention and reminding you to use it, which is why it’s become such a popular product. So if I open the cupboard, for example, and there’s loads of chocolate biscuits in there, I’m probably going to eat one. So we’ve got to be very mindful of what are the triggers in our environment? And how can we trigger ourselves to keep practising the new habits or the new habit that we want to build, to help us to be our best more often. 

And then, the final factor of the Nine Action Factor model is what we call brain state. Imagine your brain is a little bit like a battery, it’s only got so much charge and every 24 hour period. And if we take the driving example, again, if you learn to sleep, when you learn to drive when you’re sleep deprived, it’s going to take you much longer to learn how to drive. And if you do when you’re mentally fresh. So the importance of the brain state factor is to be aware that when we’re trying to build difficult new habits, it’s better to practice doing that, or practice planning to do that when we’re mentally fresh, because that will give us a better chance of actually controlling our behaviour. So we talked about resilience or a lot of for me, it is the absolute foundation of everything that we do. Everyone can get better at it, everyone can get better at being more self aware, do more intelligent self watching, and everyone can get better at learning how to build new habits. And what is absolutely essential if you’re going to do that is to understand the Nine Action Factors. And to make that really simple to put into practice we’ve created the habit building plan, which is an essential part of our Me Power resilience programme. And of course the Me Power resilience programme is all about building better habits in every area of your life. So it shows you how to put the Nine Action factors model into action into any new habit that you want to build. So if you want to learn more about it you can check out the Me Power resilience programme. If you just want to get going and just get better at doing a little bit of self watching a little bit of fun in absolutely free you can access the me power resilience planner, just go to our website, access for free, and that gives you daily and weekly structures to make it easier for you to actually plan and reflect and start being more resilient, which we can all learn how to do. So I hope that was helpful. We’ll talk a lot more about the nature factors and resilience in future podcasts. But that’s all for now.


Share now