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Optimising Human PerformanceShort Read

Resilience and Mental Toughness

EPISODE 6:  Resilience and Mental Toughness

Martin Jones and Jonpaul are joined by human performance expert Professor Daniel Gucciardi to explore resilience as an emergent outcome in high-performance settings. 

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Guest, Cast & Crew

Daniel Gucciardi is a professor at Curtin University. He is a distinguished expert on stress, resilience and mental toughness and has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles.  His research focuses on personal and contextual factors related to high performance, health behaviours and wellbeing in contexts such as sport, education and the workplace. 

Hosted by Martin Jones & Jonpaul Nevin https://www.ophp.co.uk 

Edited by Bess Manley

Produced by Wavell Room https://wavellroom.com

Resources

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Chapters

00:42 Guest Introduction: Professor Daniel Gucciardi

03:42 Defining Resilience

07:54 Exploring Mental Toughness

13:45 Measuring Resilience

24:35 Reflection Techniques

30:50 Team Resilience

33:12 Future Research and Final Thoughts

Up Next

Next week…Dr. Preston Cline, co-founder of the Mission Critical Institute, joins us to discuss the characteristics of effective mission-critical teams, and how to improve cohesion & facilitate career transitions in high-stress roles. 

Transcript

[00:00:00] Martin: Hello and welcome to the Optimizing Human Performance podcast. I’m Martin Jones, a Human Performance Specialist, Researcher and Educator. 

[00:00:09] JP And I’m Jonpaul Nevin, a former Royal Armoury Physical Training Corps Instructor turned academic. Each week we talk to world leading experts about how to unlock the full potential of those who operate in high stress, high stakes environments.

We discuss  the latest science, innovative strategies, practical wisdom and inspirational stories in the rapidly evolving world of human performance 

optimization. The Optimizing Human Performance podcast is produced in partnership with the Wavell Room and the Tactical Athlete Performance Centre at Buckinghamshire New University.

In today’s episode we talk to Professor Daniel Gucciardi. Dan is a professor at the Curtin School of Allied Health at Curtin University. His research focuses on personal and contextual factors related to high performance, health behaviors, and well being in contexts such as sports, education, and the workplace.

He’s a distinguished expert on stress, resilience, and mental toughness, and he’s published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles. In our conversation, we scrutinise resilience as an emergent outcome that reveals how people and teams respond to adversity. We examine the personal factors that aid resilience, consider how resilience applies to teams, and discuss practical strategies to help people improve their resilience.

[00:01:26] Martin: Hi Dan welcome to the optimising human performance podcast. It’s great to have you here. What we like to do to start off with his hand straight over to you for you just to introduce yourself, tell us who you are, what you do, where you are and how you got to your current position.

[00:01:42] Dan: Cool. Thanks Martin. Thanks jp. my name’s Daniel Gucchiardi. I’m a professor at Curtin University in the Curtin School of Allied Health. My background is in psychology. I’ve spent probably the best part of the past 10 to 15 years doing stuff around the psychology of human performance.

primarily with regards to kind of individual and team dynamics in, sport, defense and, other sort of performance settings as well. 

[00:02:09] Martin: so how did you get to do what you’re currently doing? Where did you start your career and what’s the trajectory been up to now?

[00:02:16] Dan: good question. I, um, I was always interested in sport, and for some reason psychology attracted me, probably because it’s, less tangible than most other things in life. and I always thought if I could Watch and talk about sport and that was part of my work. that’d be a pretty good life to live. my wife disagrees with that sometimes when I’m watching sport and I suggest it’s work. but I guess, you know, among that common thread is I’ve always been interested in kind of human performance and how people get the best out of themselves. Having witnessed and seen, people I played with as a young kid who had all the, you know, physical talent in the world but never really utlilized it fully I guess that was probably one of the draw cards into the psychology space.

so from there I went and did a PhD, looking at mental toughness in sport. That was probably my inroad into thinking into this complex space of psychology and human performance. And then from there, started my academic career, so did a post doc. Initially looking at some stuff around anti doping and sport. Then over at the University of Queensland looking, again, more so in the mental toughness side, but then expanding that work into positive youth development. So thinking about how we could use sport as a hook to get kids doing some, good stuff for them physically and psychologically. and then, job came up back in Perth, which is where I’m from. and , been here for the past, 10, 11 years now, yeah. So, doing my thing here in wonderful Perth.

[00:03:42] JP: So Dan, based upon a lot of the work which you’ve done, resilience seems to be a bit of a buzzword these days. Indeed, everyone’s talking about it. May that be from the corporate sector through to the military. And when you think about it, resilience as a concept can mean different things to different people depending upon their background, their understanding and their experiences.

So how do you define resilience?

[00:04:05] Dan: Yeah, so my perspective on resilience is one that aligns with this dynamic systems perspective rather than resilience being something that someone has or doesn’t have. we call it an emergent outcome within the context of dynamic systems. it’s basically a function of the interaction between person and environment, with some sort of time element to it. I usually think about it in terms of how one sustains or returns to an optimal zone of functioning when they’re confronted with meaningful threats, stresses, disruptions to their usual ways of operating. 

[00:04:38] Martin: So, on that then, Dan sometimes.

You hear about resilience as a trait, something you’re potentially born with. sometimes we hear about resilience as a capacity, as a process, all these different other definitions of resilience, where does your work fit with that sort of you’re born with it versus you can train it, capacity that those sorts of questions, where do you fit?

[00:05:00] Dan: So I definitely think there’s an individual element to demonstrating resilience, but just because you demonstrate resilience in one scenario, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will in another scenario. Or when confronted with another type of threat or stress or disruption to how you do things.

So yeah the trait or the person element is definitely an important part of that but, we’re embedded within a broader ecological system, whether that’s the people directly around us all the way to the systems and the policies in the organization within which we work, as well as the society or the cultures in which we’re operating as well. So all of those spheres of influence, come into play when we’re talking about, demonstrating resilience. 

[00:05:41] JP: from a layman’s perspective, when you talk about resilience, do you see resilience as a construct in itself? Or is it an overarching concept made up of several other constructs such as hardiness, grit, mental toughness, etc? 

[00:05:55] Dan: Yeah, look, it’s probably a combination of multiple different things. so, the way I like to think about resilience is more than the sum of its parts. cooking’s a good analogy, right? We have lots of different ingredients for various recipes, but, depending on what ingredients you use and how you put them together, the end product may look completely different, depending on, you know, who’s involved, how they put, those ingredients together, their cooking style and so on.

so it’s very much a dynamic complex interaction between how people interact with their environment. 

[00:06:27] Martin: Coming back to your, early research then, you and I have worked together for, well, I’m trying to think, we published a paper together in 2012, was it? It was quite a while ago now, where we looked at mental toughness, in a youth sports setting. And you mentioned your PhD was around mental toughness.

Now, as I’m listening to you describing resilience, It feels like you could be describing mental toughness as well. It seems like a lot of crossover. So what’s the difference between this construct of resilience that we’re talking about now and other similar things like mental toughness, maybe even hardiness, or we talk about grit as a similar construct.

So where do you see the difference?

[00:07:06] Dan: So I see mental toughness as, one of those summary type concepts to capture the most important bits about the person and how the person, comes to a scenario or a situation where they need to demonstrate resilience. So I definitely see mental toughness as something that is a quality of a person. It’s, it’s very much like a state like psychological resource, so in the sense that it has some stability, but it’s certainly open to change and development. And so that resource is generally, geared around being purposeful, flexible, and efficient for, things that we do which are goal-directed in nature.

And so that’s a really important consideration when we’re talking about mental toughness. It’s not just how you demonstrate. purposefulness, flexibility, or whatever it is in particular context, if you think of it as a compass, right, around, goal-directed pursuit. So it’s things that we’ve set our targets on and we’re working towards achieving. So that mental toughness concept then is very much a reflection of the good stuff about what a person brings to a situation where they need to demonstrate resilience And so coming back to that idea of resilience being a, complex interaction in terms of the person and their environment, that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

[00:08:19] JP: So 

considering mental toughness and sort of just going down that rabbit hole a little bit more, is it something which you feel we could develop within individuals? for example, can we use concepts such as stress inoculation training, whereby we apply stressor to the individual, we give them the mental skills to comprehend that stressor and then we dial the stressor up in subsequent sessions.

Do you feel that can be effective? Can that make people more mentally tough, 

[00:08:44] Dan: Ah, yeah, 100%. Yeah, so there’s, been a bit of work over the past decade or so that’s, looked at some of those things that you’ve just mentioned there in your questioning around, exposing people to stressful situations, things that are going to how they usually operate.and then using those as, test beds, opportunities to, refine skills, apply skills, and so on. and so again, I think that’s where that idea of, you know, the mental toughness angle, if we’re thinking about, that personal or psychological resource that someone brings to a situation. it’s certainly something that can be trained.

So, you know, I think of that as a distinction to something that is very trait like, that, is relatively stable over time and takes a bit of effort. Or, some really major changes in one’s life hardiness comes to mind as one of those, traits that is often talked about in this context in the space of stress. 

[00:09:35] Martin: So we, talked about mental toughness and hardness there potential assets that are the personal factors that can help people respond in a productive way to adversity. I think is that would you say that’s a good way of summing up that sort of relationship?

[00:09:50] Dan: Yeah, certainly, yep. psychological resources that enhance the likelihood of us doing well when confronted with stress and adversity.

They don’t necessarily mean we will do well, but they certainly set the stage for us to demonstrate whatever it is we need to do in that situation. 

[00:10:06] Martin: Are there any others?  if we start looking at more of these personal factors that are potentially trainable, like you said, maybe relatively stable, don’t change that much across different situations. Is there anything else that if were going to develop a resilience training program again using that sort of buzzword that’s used a lot in high stress, high stakes environments, which of the personal factors do you think are trainable and most important people focusing on, changing these trajectories of functioning.

[00:10:38] Dan: Ah, confidence is the obvious one. I think most people would agree, irrespective of what the evidence says and does support, but, yeah, certainly one’s belief in their abilities to do something as a general sort of snapshot of their, confidence to do certain things in certain situations at certain times.

So that’s that more specific type confidence. I think that’s probably the lion’s share of what we’re talking about from the personal attributes and certainly one of the important characteristics I would say that feeds into that mental toughness umbrella concept term. if we’re talking about how does that then translate into developing resilience or maximizing the likelihood that we demonstrate resilience in certain situations, One other factor that comes into that is around our coping insights, so developing awareness around what works for us, when it might work, and how we might use that. and so that’s more of the, learning by doing. we’ve done a bit of this work around reflection and using reflection as a systematic process to learn from stressful experiences. we don’t, learn from experiences, we learn from reflecting on those experiences and taking lessons learned from it.

So there’s the resources we bring to the situation, but, ultimately we need to actually expose ourselves to things that are going to help us figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what we might need to do to resource or skill so that next time we’ve got a better chance of dealing with a similar type of scenario. 

[00:11:59] Martin: That’s good news for me, because I also agree with you. And when I talk to people, I always, I use the term C2, which in a military context, people think of it as command and control, but I call it confidence and control. I also add self-awareness on, but that doesn’t begin with C, so I just call it C2. it sounds really similar. I think I agree with you. I think confidence is super important.

if we want to measure someone’s resilience, then I always think of a lot of resilience measurement tools like psychometric tools are probably measuring personal factors of resilience, but they’re not necessarily measuring that person’s situation interaction.

Is that true? And if it is true, can we measure resilience when we are thinking of it as a person situation interaction?

[00:12:41] Dan: so from my perspective, if we’re conceptualizing and thinking about resilience as an emergent outcome, you know, that person, environment interaction, then those assessments of those personal qualities are just one piece of the picture.

And in that sense, I would say they’re not a very good assessment of someone’s resilience. resilience for me is about, capturing functioning relative to, stress. one of the things we see in the literature is people will write about and talk about and think they’re doing resilience assessments, but they often overlook the fundamental bit, which is the resilience to what. And so, that’s the first part of assessing and monitoring resilience is, being clear about what we need to demonstrate resilience to. And so that’s, measuring the things, which potentially disrupt our usual ways of operating. And so the way we’re starting to think about this is kind of from an event systems theory, which comes from OrgPsych, but essentially , it provides a nice snapshot of the core things that we need to think about in terms of novelty.

So is the event something that, differs from what is typically experienced or unlike anything that you’ve encountered previously? The second part is this idea of criticality. so is the event or what you’ve experienced essential or a priority to your functioning? And then probably a combination of those two leads us to disruption.

So is the event or the stressor, something that disturbs, interrupts or interferes with our usual ways of operating? And so if we’re thinking about, measuring resilience, being clear about resilience to what is the first step. like I said, if you’re, Talking about resilience as an emergent outcome.

If you haven’t experienced anything stressful, you’re not really demonstrating resilience. You’re probably just demonstrating high functioning. 

[00:14:25] Martin:  So is it possible to 

identify what these stressors are these adverse events Is it universal? Like, things that stress you out stress me out? when we’re studying resilience, can we identify things that just generally Add adversity or stress to the general population?

Or is it completely individual? How you appraise and perceive stress is down to you. what’s the situation there?

[00:14:47] Dan: Oh, look, I think there are events that most people would say are stressor in the sense that they meet those criteria of being either novel, critical, or disruptive to how they operate. but as a, general rule of thumb, stresses are personalized and individualized, right?

Like what’s. novel to me, as an example, might be something that’s quite commonplace to someone else. You know, if you’ve never done skydiving before, the people who have done skydiving are probably going to say, that’s not really a novel event to me. I know the experience, I know the preparation for doing that.

so it, definitely is individualized, that psychological filter of what is, novel, critical, or disruptive is very much contextualised to the individual. that’s not to say that certain things might not generalise across lots of people, but yeah, for the most part I think it’s been really clear about what’s a stressor for an individual.

[00:15:39] Martin: You recently published a super interesting study, I remember reading this, I think I might have even reviewed it, You were looking at sleep as one of those indicators of the trajectory of functioning, and you used a very high performing group. I think the experience of that group is one of those universal stressors that everyone who goes into that particular adverse experience, they find it pretty hard. I think we can safely say it’s like a selection qualification course for a very specialist group of military personnel. Can you just talk us through that study? what did you do? And what did you find?

[00:16:12] Dan: Yeah, so this, the second part to assessing resilience, is a measure of functioning.

And that functioning, similar to the stressor, has to be, contextualised or personalised to the individual. And so that becomes really important for, assessing and talking about resilience. So before we get to that example, you know, if we think about people migrating to a new country, some form of social connectedness might be a, a useful or an interesting metric of their functioning with regards to that, integration process.

Whereas, you know, for me, someone who’s grown up in Australia, I think it’s probably not the most, characteristics sort of thing that we want to be looking at in terms of my functioning here as someone who’s lived here my whole life.

so within the context of that study that you mentioned, Martin, we, um, had an opportunity to look at some factors that, predicted selection success. And then, through that process, in conversation with one of the psychologists, actually, they talked about that recovery week has been.

That week where the candidates who made it through successfully, you know, their primary task is to recover before the onslaught of their next selection course, through the Special Forces program. And so that was the obvious marker for us. If you’re thinking about recovery, the best way to recover is sleep. particularly when you talk about a multi week selection course where your sleep has been deprived and disrupted. Purposefully and intentionally along all the chaos that is with the physical gruelling elements of a selection course. and so we used sleep metrics as a marker of functioning.

in relation to that stressor, the three week stressor that was the selection course. And I’ve never done a selection course, I’ve only heard people talk about it and just hearing people talk about it, it’s um, I don’t know why you’d subject yourself to it. But they’re certainly smashed and bashed to the extent that they do need to recover.

So the stressor was there, and then we used sleep as a marker of their functioning. I think for me, the cool thing that we did with that project, we didn’t look at sleep. Primarily, in terms of the average amount of sleep or the duration of sleep each night over time. We were interested in the variability or the extent they’re bouncing around with their sleep duration for the seven days after the selection course.

and so our expectation there was if they are demonstrating resilience, that variability should start quite high because it, is a pretty intense, experience on the body, the mind and everything else. And so that initial period we should see some variability, quite a lot of variability in the first couple of nights, but if they are recovering and demonstrating resilience, variability should decrease over the course of that week when they’re given the opportunity, the resources to, recover.

And so that’s what we looked at. That’s what we found that, unsurprisingly with, such an elite group that they were able to do that.

 

[00:19:00] Martin:  as I’m listening to you talk, seems to me then that a lot of the research that I’ve read in resilience is potentially missing a trick. And I mean when I say that is I often see people who will measure resilience once they’ll take some kind of measure, whatever it is, a questionnaire or whatever of resilience, but they’ll only do it once. That seems Pointless because resilience is a trajectory over time, right? It’s a trajectory functioning in response to a stressor over time. So if we’re only measuring it once, we might get that, like you said, that massive variability in day one. Because they’ve just come off a very difficult course, but we don’t see the trajectory. 

Is that right? 

[00:19:37] Dan: Yeah. I think for the most part, where possible you want multiple snapshots of, functioning, whatever your indicator of functioning is for the person, the team, the collective, that’s ideally what you’re looking at in response to, in and around, stresses, disruptions.

there are probably one-off scenarios where. Stress might be a, characteristic of the build up to something, so for example if you’re thinking of a one off, Olympic race or something like that, you might be looking at how someone performs relative to their previous best coming into that scenario. that’s probably one instance where that, that one off performance might be a useful marker. because they need to perform in that moment. and it’s relative to something, and we know that period up until that competition is a stressful period. but yeah, certainly where possible, capturing functioning over time is really important to get a sense of that withstanding stress or bouncing back, because, you know, there are times when stress gets the best of us, and that’s, perfectly normal.

so then, you know, the question from a resilience standpoint is, how quickly do we bounce back? Which you might miss from those one off, those really static snapshots of performance, right? Like I think of the example that we’re doing now with a project looking at Commander Controls so C2, where we’ve had some university students do like some 15 minute firefighting scenarios.

 In the first round of data analysis, we’ve just looked at performance. at the end of the 15 minute scenario to look at some of the things we’re interested in around how the teams are structured. but that only really tells us one piece of the picture, because in those 15 minute scenarios we’ve, embedded, disruptions that we know, and we definitely know they caused, misalignment, I guess, in terms of how the teams are working.

And so for us the resolution we’re interested in is what does their performance look like. in and around those disruptions before, do they take a hit? and if they do take a hit, how quickly do they get back to a trajectory of optimal or just okay functioning? 

[00:21:36] Martin: So sleep is an example of one of those metrics that can demonstrate functioning. And you mentioned other outcomes would be relevant to different jobs, different tasks. 

So if, People listening to this thinking, well, I don’t know how to measure my sleep or I don’t want to measure my sleep, I’m interested in a different type of function or a different metric function. What other things do you think might be measurable and potentially meaningful to people who are working in high stress, high stakes environments?

maybe office based and more sort of cognitively stressful, rather than physically stressful. Are there any other things that are potentially, insightful to help people

understand that trajectory of functioning?

[00:22:14] Dan: Yeah, so, the way I think about functioning is usually around what’s most important to me. in my context, in my environment, you know, whether that’s some marker of, performance that your organization captures about how you work and so on. otherwise it might be stuff around your health and well being. so sleep being one of those common examples that people are interested in. , it could be just something as simple as a, self report scale. You know, how well do I feel rested, recovered, energetic, whatever it is, you know.

So what’s really important to you, that’s, it’s really hard to put a specific example unless you have the context for someone. so for me at the moment, it is very much around feeling unrested, which is hard with a toddler and a pretty chaotic work schedule. So,you know, something like that for me, it’s usually a marker of not so much how much I sleep, but You know, the quality of that sleep and how well I feel rested each morning.

[00:23:08] Martin: You mentioned earlier that you’ve done some work around self-reflection as a method to help people navigate uncertainty, navigate these,stressful events. Can we loop back to that and just describe what you meanby self reflection and how does that help somebody navigate this adversity, these stresses that we experience in life.

[00:23:30] Dan: Yeah, so, reflection is a, it’s called a metacognitive skill, so it’s like thinking about thinking. and so once you experience something, it’s taking the time to look back on that experience to, to see what we can learn from it. What we’ve done is tried to formalise, I guess in a sense, that process of reflection.

if we come back to what it means to demonstrate resilience, the first part is really trying to, narrow down on the stressor or the stressors that we experienced as a compass for, prioritising our attention and focus for that reflection. so once you have an understanding of, what it is that mattered most or, disrupted you most, whatever it is in that context. we can use that as a compass in terms of thinking about, what we did, how we did it, what we could do better next time. 

probably the most important part of that is the second, part of the compass. The first part is the stressor event. But the second part, is kind of the value system.

that you as an individual hold or you as a team hold. So you know, what’s important and how does I did or what we did, align with or not. that values driven system.

[00:24:38] Martin: In some of your published work, you use slightly different terms. I’ve noticed you’ve got your self distance, your self immersion, your supervisor led reflections. What are they and how are those different classifications useful? If people are thinking, I’m going to use this reflective practice technique to help me develop and help me, to learn from my experiences. So what’s the difference between this is self immersed, the distanced or supervisor led or individual types of reflection?

[00:25:07] Dan: So the first part, the self immersed versus self distanced is essentially vantage point from which we’re reflecting on an experience. And so I think for most people, intuitively, spontaneously, we’ll revert to this idea of what’s called self immersed.

so you’ll relive the experience as if if it was happening to you. in a first person type of standpoint, the example I often give when thinking about a perspective, that is, you’re, You’ve just run out of a burning house, there’s a reporter there and they come and ask you, you know, tell me what happened.

It’s, you actually relive the experience firsthand, and so we can compare that to a self distance standpoint, which is where we try and, step back from. that experience and look at it in a more objective way. And so the example I give there is usually, you know, like if you’re on the sideline, you might be thinking of yourself as a coach, watching yourself perform, doing something.

So you might be thinking, well, Gooch was experiencing X, Y, Z. I saw Gooch doing whatever it is. So you’re using that third person standpoint. And essentially the theory or the rationale around why we do that is, stressful experiences can be quite emotionally charged. and so for those experiences where, kind of the hot features, the emotionally hot features take over, using that self immersed perspective can be, less effective in those scenarios because we get caught up in reliving those hot features of the experience.

And so the idea is, if we take a self distant standpoint, you know, we’re, we’re psychologically distancing ourself from that first hand experience of the event, and so it gives us a, more objective, ways to learn from that experience.

 the other one you mentioned there was the

Supervisor led reflection. That’s just a different type of, reflection process where, you know, up until now we’ve been talking about the person, administering or leading the reflection process. one other way we’ve looked at this in, Military context here in Australia is, the person who’s leading a group, so a supervisor or a coach, guides or leads that reflection process for the team or the group.

[00:27:12] JP: Expanding upon that further, if we have individuals who operate in quite high demand roles, military personnel and those who operate in the fire service and police, Do we want to expose them to a stressor initially, which sort of mimics a stressor which they might experience in their operational environment?

So for want of a better word, do we want to give them a good old beasting to really put them under the cosh, and then give them something to reflect upon, or do we want to give them education first in regards to what is stress and how it may impact upon them? And then apply the stressor, and then utilise reflection.

What would be the optimal approach by which to develop this? 

[00:27:52] Dan: I’d say there’s probably not an optimal way to do it. Both are good, at least the evidence is suggesting both options are good at this point. the latter is the approach we’ve taken where we might not set out purposefully to engage or expose ourselves to stress or events. And so having a sort of a systematic protocol to reflect on experiences, particularly, you know, with some informational guidance around what is a stressor event or a disruption that we need to focus on.

that can give us a framework to then reflect on everyday experiences,in a systematic, flexible way. but certainly the first example or option you provided around being purposeful about exposing people to stressful events is certainly an effective way to do it, particularly in training and development context.

And, you know, the military is pretty good at doing that. and so I’ve always approached the work that, we’ve done with defense is not trying to completely reinvent the wheel. It’s trying to help them think about how they can learn best from those really authentic training experiences that they have set up.

And they’ve done, there’s a long history, hundreds of years of, you know, those sorts of experiences. so it’s really giving The individuals and the collectives, the resources to do it systematically in a way that’s effective. 

[00:29:06] JP: You raised a real good point there, and I suppose it’s always important to consider that tacit knowledge that’s been passed down through the generations. 

 If you have individuals who come in and try and reinvent the wheel, well, people will often button up. They’ll get defensive, and before you know it, you’re fighting another battle which you shouldn’t really need to be engaged with. 

[00:29:23] Dan: Yep, certainly that, and you know, that’s been our experience, I think in the military context, reflection  It’s not the term that’s used, but you know, after action reviews, debriefs, so on, that’s part of the organizational fabric, right? Like they’ve been doing it for centuries 

 we would never have got through the door if we suggested we were trying to reinvent the wheel. it was rather thinking about how can we take what processes you do now and merge that with,  the scientific evidence to basically update your processes in a way that gives you the best bang for your buck.

 Academics are academics, we live in our little bubble. So you’ve got to come in and really work with your end user in ways that, merges our expertise with the expertise of your end user, right? 

[00:30:07] Martin: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. The, different types of reflection. I think a really interesting to me how we can potentially take a process but differentiate it based on, you know, small changes when you were working in the military context, applying these different types of reflections, 

did you get any user feedback about which, ways they preferred. Did they like doing a self immersed versus self distanced? And did you notice any differences in terms of outcome by applying those different types of reflective practice techniques?

[00:30:40] Dan: So we haven’t looked at the self distance versus self immersed angle yet, in the work that I’ve led, from a reflection standpoint.

that’s part of our future work. but certainly not a let’s use self distance or self immersed. It’s about when to use which one. so I think it’s probably having a repertoire of tools in your toolkit.

if you’re reflecting on a stressor event where the kind of emotionality of it is low, you probably don’t need to take a self distance standpoint, because actually reliving it firsthand might be the best way to extract what you need to extract in terms of lessons learned.

but then, you know, it might be another type of stressor experience where It’s either too soon or it’s really too hot to reflect on from that, you know, re living it first hand. so that might be a scenario when we need to think about a different way to reflect on it. And so that’s where that self distance standpoint can come into play.

 what we have found and what a lot of others have found that, Spontaneously, people gravitate towards a self immersed standpoint, and so that self distance, lens, requires a bit of practice, because it’s not something that comes natural to a lot of people. I must admit, you know, when I first, worked on it myself, it was, it’s a really bizarre thing when you’re talking about yourself in the third person, trying to, remove yourself from that, that lived experience, right, when it’s so fresh in your mind.

[00:32:00] Martin: Yeah, I’ve experienced a similar thing. Like when I’m teaching, people self talk. For example, I sometimes use third person self talk, and I know that people find it really hard sometimes use that distance type of self talk as a performance enhancing strategy. So I could see why it would be challenging as well from a reflective practice point of view.

 [00:32:21] JP: Dan, changing tack again, one of my colleagues who I believe you may know, Professor Paul Morgan, talks quite often around the concept of team resilience. what is team resilience and how does it differ from individual resilience? 

[00:32:34] Dan: So if we first look at what a team is, a team is essentially two or more people who are working interdependently, so working together towards some common objective. and so I think, you know, as a starting point, the distinction from that is, what’s important to me as an individual may not necessarily be important to the collective.

It might be, something around performance, functioning, coordination, and so on.and so then in that scenario, we’re really thinking about, the markers of functioning that are most relevant or important to the team rather than the individual. So you might have your own KPIs as a person, as a member of a team, contributing to that, but how we measure the team’s success, or efficiency or effectiveness, whatever the term is you’re interested in, would be likely quite different to, individual markers of performance within the context of that team. 

[00:33:25] JP: Would there be any differences in regards to how we approach training for a team to develop team resilience? Would we take the same approach as we would for an individual? 

Or would we sort of take a different approach? Would we look at things in a different way? 

[00:33:40] Dan: I think we can kind of generalise the approach in terms of at least how we’ve done our work, in our group. We’re certainly interested in that idea of seeing stress, disruption, whatever it is, as a good thing, when we’re doing it purposefully.

So, trying to learn from those experiences to figure out, like I said, what works, what doesn’t work, and what we might need moving forward.so that general, sort of framework, I guess, of experiencing stress, disruption, and so on, and taking the time to be purposeful, to learn from those experiences, generalizes.

the distinctions we’ll see, come back to that idea of what a team is, right? if you’re reflecting on a stressful experience as a team, it’s probably a combination of the person, but also the collective. So how did I perform relative to what I was expected to do, blah, blah, blah. but the bulk of the learning really is about the collective. it’s bringing that understanding of how I performed relative to our team’s needs and, desires around how we work together to achieve that common objective. 

[00:34:42] Martin: think this kind of takes us on to a good point to ask about the future of your research. And are you doing next in the field of resilience and maybe broader than that. Where do you see the field of resilience moving to in the next few years?

[00:34:57] Dan: so for me and our group here we’re trying to think about how we can Operationalise, so how we can put into practice that concept of resilience as resilience to what and, trajectory of functioning over time into practice. and so at the individual level with advancements in technology and so on, we’re really thinking about how do we get those really high resolution snapshots of data, in terms of how people function or interact with their environment.

and then being able to think about how we can, capture information, spontaneously or, through experimentally induced, stressor events. To look at, a greater resolution around some of those trajectories of functioning. because I think that’s been one of the challenges. As you mentioned, a lot of people rely on these static snapshots of functioning at various points in time.

And it may not be the right time to assess something. so we often make that assumption when we set up an experiment or an observational study that, it’s the right time to assess something. So thinking about how we can, capture data unobtrusively through, wearables and so on, but also thinking about, getting better resolution around what it is we actually mean around stresses, and so one of the things we’ve been doing recently is trying to leverage some of that,theory around, those core components I mentioned around novelty, criticality, and disruption to, give us a better understanding of when people do need to, demonstrate resilience.

the other part we’re doing in our defence work is looking at resilience primarily within team context because, defence much like many other areas in life requires that teams do the heavy lifting. you don’t have individual soldiers or operators, doing the work. It’s, people working together and, you know, even in the command and control context, which you talked about now, it’s teams of teams. And, it’s not only teams with an army now, we have teams across the forces, the different forces working together. And we see a lot of that in, civilian life as well. the emergency response scenario is quite a common one where we see those command and control teams coming together. here in Australia, we have bushfires every summer that, is a clear example of where those, command and control type teams come together. So your fireys, your, emergency responders, police, nurses, medical and so on.

[00:37:10] Martin: And if people are interested in following that research, learn a bit more about what you do, you seem to publish a new paper every other week, Gooch. So I How do people contact you or follow the work that you’re doing?

[00:37:22] Dan: Yeah, I try and keep, posting updates on X Twitter, as regularly as possible. I do maintain my own website.

if you’re interested in something, always reach out to an academic. People are really wanting to share their work. It’s a nice buzz when you don’t get another academic reaching out for your work. If it’s your everyday punter and they’re keen to learn more, then that’s probably the most exciting thing, I think, for me.

So do reach out.

[00:37:47] Martin: Great stuff. We can put your personal website in the show notes so people can find that and try and find out what new papers you’re publishing. As I say, there seems to be one every other week. So becoming thick and fast. what we like to do at the end of the podcast is just hand it back over to you.

And to give you the final word to either reinforce a key message or maybe introduce something new that we haven’t covered yet that you maybe feel is particularly important. So, Gooch, thanks for joining us today. Over to you. How do you want to wrap this one up? 

[00:38:18] Dan: I often, and this is probably more my academic mindset coming into play here, but I think really taking time to, think about exactly what it is you mean, when you’re talking about something, whether it’s resilience, sleep, or, health, well being, and so on. Really, taking a moment to think about being clear.

about your definition and what that definition means for how you go about assessing, monitoring and intervening. we’ve touched on it a little bit here in the resilience space. you know, for a good reason, people are wanting to do good and help others. and I think I’ve kind of jumped the gun a little bit by assessing attributes or predictors of resilience potential, but not actually looking at it within a, a context of where they’re unpacking it within the specifics of resilience.

And so for that, we need an understanding of resilience to what, and what is important to me in terms of functioning. And so I think if you’re clear about those two things,you’re miles ahead of most people when you’re thinking about this idea of resilience.

[00:39:15] Martin: Fantastic. Thank you very much, Gooch. Always a pleasure speaking to you. I’ve learned a lot from this, I always do when I talk to you. So much appreciation. 

[00:39:23] Dan: Well, thanks. Yeah. Thanks for the invitation, having me join this conversation, Martin and JP,

[00:39:28] Martin: Thanks for your

time. 

[00:39:29] Outro: Thank you for joining us on the Optimizing Human Performance podcast, a Wavel Room production. If you’re enjoying this content, don’t forget to like and subscribe so that we can keep improving. And remember to visit wavelroom. com to find their latest articles, podcasts and newsletters. If you know someone who could benefit from our discussions, please refer them to our show.

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