The other day one of our trainers was telling me about the programs they were running at a national rugby league club he was working at. The NRL are known to have a high number of suicides among young men for a number of reasons. Thankfully they have taken the proactive steps of implementing a resilience program.  

The program encourages players to engage in 3 key behaviours on a daily basis;  

  • Mindfulness: take time for yourself everyday, to clear your head  
  • Empathy: realise there are always people out there doing it tougher than you  
  • Gratitude: write in a diary everyday the things you are grateful for  

The players all bought into the program and by simply engaging with these 3 key mindsets they reported not only better health outcomes but also their overall performance had improved.  

This all followed my experience in Tanzania where I met a young man called Henry. Henry invited me to play a game of football with his mates. Following the game he offered to walk my wife and I back to our hotel room.  

During the trip back, he decided to take us on a short detour to his house. And with great pride he showed us his humble dwellings. It was a mud hut about the size of one standard bedroom, which he shared with his mother, sister and niece who all greeted us so warmly into their home. My wife noticed there was a lantern omitting light but they had no electricity.  Henry said the electricity only gets connected when they can pay for it. He said he often didn’t go to school so he could take casual jobs to pay for electricity and food for his family. He showed us the kitchen – an outdoor fire pit covered by corrugated iron. Next was his ‘man cave’, which was as big as a single bed. He also showed us his bed frame, which he bought after completing a job – carrying 20kg bags to the top of a grueling 5.8km climb of Mt Kilimanjaro as a 12-year-old boy.  

I then noticed a poster on the wall of his bedroom. The poster was of a big white mansion with a mustang in the driveway, to which I asked what is this for? Henry’s face lit up with excitement as he said ‘this is the house I want to build for my mother, a real house.’ He then rushed us outside to a pile of bricks, saying ‘these are the bricks which I will build the house’, he then took off around the corner and said ‘this is the land I will build the house on’ and mapped out exactly where each room would stand. As he walked us back to our lodge, he said to me in poetic fashion  

‘This is my life, it is simple but I am happy’  

Once we entered our warm, well-lit hotel room, my wife cried. We had never met someone who had so little but was so rich.  

Now I’m not one to write down in a diary everyday what I am grateful for, but I do believe in taking moments to reflect and acknowledge those that you are grateful for, to breathe and become self-aware. Henry reminded me of this. He showed empathy for people who were even less fortunate, he was aware of himself and the people around him and he also asked if we could become friends on Facebook, which only went to prove that we were not all too different. As a good friend of mine says often ‘it is not a case of changing the way you look but in changing the way you see.’  

How can we relate this to our work?   

By focusing on remaining MINDFUL, allowing ourselves space to breathe within our work day.   

Acting with EMPATHY for those around us, try to be understanding rather than reactive.   

And practicing GRATITUDE. By focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can change the way we view our work and our lives.