Can you handle the Heat?


Personal Resilience: The importance of responding to setbacks

Marathon des Sables in Morocco is described as one of the “toughest footraces on Earth” and a brutal test of ones individual spirit and physical durability.

In April, Sir Ranuph Fiennes is attempting to become the oldest Briton to complete the 250km race which, spread over six days, is the equivalent of around a marathon a day! Previous competitors have often struggled with the searing heat and the potential hazardous sandstorms in the Sahara, which, have ultimately put a huge strain on a competitor’s state of mind and self-belief. This is the kind of event where competitors will face a number of challenges and setbacks along the way and they will need to demonstrate high levels of personal resilience in order to succeed.

Having setbacks or failures in life affects individuals in different ways. Some collapse under the pressure and give up, while others use it as a means to drive on through the storm (in Ranulphs case, an actual sandstorm) and use it to their advantage. Our White Paper on this topic looks at the effects of how adversity can be minimised and turned into your advantage. Individuals can develop practical and personalised strategies that drive effective and sustained performance in high-pressure environments. Here are four top tips:

1. Success Strategies: Develop skills and tactics for dealing with stress that work for you, based on your experience and the environment you’re in. These will help you to take a step back (metaphorically at least) and think clearly and rationally in stressful situations, meaning that your emotional brain won’t hijack your rational brain.

2. Performance Mindset: Revaluate how you interpret potentially stressful environments, allowing you to see a way past challenges (even seeing them as opportunities rather than threats). You need to be self-aware, choose to think differently, then train and practice this mindset.

3. Resilient Character: Understand who you are as an individual, specifically what drives you and harness those personal characteristics to enable you to build confidence and develop self-belief. Some people naturally deal better with stressful situations; it’s about recognising the triggers that mean you’re not in control anymore.

4. Performance Environment and Well-Being: Consider how your own resilience is either supported or hindered by factors in your work environment. Also, look at how much attention you place on your general health and well-being; this can have a huge effect on your resilience.



One person who demonstrated all of the above and who Sir Ranulph Fiennes could learn from, is Mauro Prosperi. His story is a first hand example of the physical and psychological affects the Marathon des Sables race can have on people. Mauro took part in the 1994 race, with huge determination to complete and ultimately win the race. After a gruelling three days, he set off on the fourth day but was hit by a violent sandstorm that lasted eight hours. He woke the following morning and was completely lost. For a whole 10 days he was lost and alone in the heat of the Sahara without proper clothing, food, water or shelter. In order to survive, he demonstrated great levels of personal resilience.

1. Success Strategies: Mauro quickly identified the best course of action to take to survive, he drank his own urine, ate and drank bat blood and sought appropriate shelter.

2. Performance Mindset: He was able to remain focused even after being lost for a number of days. He maintained that he would be rescued and, even after he failed to be spotted by a plane, carried on in the face of adversity.

3. Resilient Character: There were times when even Mauro questioned his own character in his situation. A failed suicide attempt is evidence of this, illustrating just how adverse things had got and how he was seeking to remain in control of his situation vs. giving  in. However, he was able to regain his composure and draw on his internal strength to carry on.

4. Personal Environment and Well-Being: Mauro recognised that he needed to maintain any strength he had left. He realised that it would be foolish to travel at peak heat and rested during that time. He also made sure he was hydrated enough to carry on. By taking into account these factors in his environment and trying to minimise their impact in order to maintain his well-being, he was able to survive.


As you can see, personal resilience is extremely important when participating in the kind of event that Sir Ranulph Fiennes intends to in April. However, these tips can also be applied every day in business. Situations such as managing multiple projects, meeting important deadlines or delivering large presentations are just a few examples of when personal resilience is key to success.

I wish Ranulph every success in the upcoming marathon. He hopes to raise over £2.5million for charity. Next time you’re in a tricky situation, maybe think to yourself – what would Sir Ranulph Fiennes do!



Image attribution to John Doe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


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