Action Cures and building resilience

17th January 2019

This article comes you from my good friend Tim. He’s an absolute legend —he’s a lover of music, geographer-by-training, and founder of the awesome Gather Outdoors.

I heartily recommend you sign up to his newsletter here for regular outdoors goodness or here for a truly uplifting Instagram experience (and as I talk about here, the outdoors is a proven action cure).

In his piece, Tim talks about the preventative powers of a solid set of #actioncures — how he realised that by introducing key tactics to his life, he increased his resilience the curve balls life can throw at us.

Extra special thanks must go to Tim for sharing this. He didn’t have to, but he did. And that is exactly I think Action Cures is all about. A world in which we’re all looking out for each other, and sharing our Action Cures, has surely got to be a better thing?

Over to Tim…

Having spent a couple of weeks curling it out, life finally laid a giant turd right in the middle of my week. Actually, it was a pair of turds in one lunchtime, but let’s not spoil the beautiful metaphor I’m working up here. As shit things go, it was pretty shitty.

But here’s the thing, it helped me reflect on what #ActionCures means.

I had always assumed it to be a reactive thing linked to exercise:

1. You feel a bit down.

2. You go for a run.

3. You feel better.

The action provides the cure. I thought it was pretty neat, but I had the wrong end of the stick. Or rather, I was focussing on the tip, without realising the work the shaft was doing.

Now, before I carry on I should add that I don’t particularly suffer with my mental health. Granted I heard the distant barking of the black dog when I turned 40, during a low patch at work. Right around the time my dad died. Things like that can gang up on you.

It felt like they might overwhelm me, and I knew I needed to do something about it.

Turns out, doing something about it back then was my #ActionCures. Because when the shit hit the fan this week, I was already prepared. Without even realising it.

As the shit-storm blew itself out around me, I discovered I had mentally equipped myself with three new foundations to prop up the one that kept me standing last time: Family.

Nature
One of the big changes I made in my forties was to spend more time outdoors. I was always outdoors as a kid, I even spent every summer night in a tent in the back garden. So when I needed some space to work things through, I took myself off to the most country spot I could find within 10 minutes of home. There I rediscovered the sense of calm that comes from a deep belonging and connection to the natural world. And realised that I was right to make the outdoors a bigger part of my life again.

Community
The other change I made was to go part-time in my dayjob, and start a business of my own: Gather Outdoors. I didn’t start it to provide an escape route from the day job, I did it to spend more time outdoors, and as an excuse to meet cool people doing good stuff. That collaborative mindset led to partnering with some of the coolest folk out there, and I’m blessed to count many of them as friends and peers. Feeling that my worth was recognised amongst my peers proved immensely rewarding.

Philosophy
The final foundation was finding a philosophy which resonates with my life choices. I rejected organised religion about the age of 16, after going to confirmation classes at my parents church, and concluding that I liked the ethics, but couldn’t deal with worshiping a magical being. So I drifted through life with a vaguely defined ethical framework, but no real structure to organise it. Until I came across Ryan Holiday, former Director of Marketing for American Apparel, editor of the New York Observer and author of several books about Stoicism, the philosophy of Roman Emperors. Stoicism has become my go to philosophy, mainly because it encapsulates how I think anyway.

My stoic mind provided two ways to deal with the day

1 — There isn’t much you can do about how life plays itself out, other than roll with the punches and learn a better strategy for next time.

2 — The realisation that #actioncures isn’t just a reactive thing, came from understanding that I had made choices about how I lived my life, which was my own way of getting stronger. As some of my friends are fond of saying “Train hard. Fight easy.”

As I walked back across this field to my car, I felt miraculously at peace with the world. A strange moment of beauty in an otherwise crappy day.