Thoughts Inspired From Matt Fenn’s Presentation on Resilience

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19 December 2022

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Earlier this month, I attended a presentation by Matt Fenn where he shared his thoughts on resilience. Close to home, Fenn is a kiwi boy who’s faced an array of challenges and obstacles in his life.

He talked about how in different stages of his life, he found that he threw himself 100% into that particular thing, often at the detriment of other aspects of his life. He gave as an example that when growing up, he was very into cricket, so much so that when he moved to London to play, he only focussed on cricket and all of his friends were made through cricket. 

Matt Fenn

He felt that his life so deeply revolved around this one aspect, that when he no longer could play, he felt like his world was shattered. Feeling extremely lonely and isolated, he had thoughts of ending his own life due to the complete lack of purpose and drive.

He told us a story that he was at a gym with a friend and they had a casual discussion about marathons. His friend was of the view that someone couldn’t just go run a marathon without training. Fenn said he disagreed and said they thought that they definitely could. The friend’s response was “go do it then,” which sparked an idea in Fenn.

Fenn has always been a big advocate for mental health, an underestimated issue. He decided that he would run to raise awareness and be an advocate for mental health. He ended up running for 654kms across 5 days to represent every Kiwi lost to suicide in the year of 2020. Constantly breaking Guinness world records and running to raise awareness, Fenn started breaking bones on these runs by enduring foot fractures, rib fractures and his whole body shutting down. He again had realised that he’d thrown himself into one thing at the detriment of other things in his life. 

Fenn strived for more balance – to promote mental health and raise awareness in a way that wouldn’t take such a toll on him. 

Something which I found profoundly impactful during his presentation was that at a point in his life where he had found balance and purpose and felt everything was going great, his partner unexpectedly passed away, which turned his world upside down. His message? “Appreciate the ups, but expect the downs too” and I find those words to live by. Life won’t always have you on a high, but it also won’t always be down. The good thing about being in a down point is that the only way is up.

Inspired by his words, presentation and journey to date, I wanted to put out a few of my thoughts regarding resilience. 

Resilience is the concept of adapting to different situations in the face of adversity and coping mentally or emotionally with a crisis to return to your frame of mind pre-crisis. 

Fenn said that he has a system of categorising his habits into things that make him happy – things that bring you a child-like level of joy, and things that you’re good at. By trying to find activities that you can regularly do that fit into those categories, you’re finding things that spark joy and happiness in your life which will help your ability to adapt to difficult situations. 

For me, things that make me happy are exercising; the rush of endorphins and the post-workout high is a feeling that’s euphoric. Something that brings me to a child-like joy is indulging in movie marathons – especially if they’re movies like Marvel movies that really are for your enjoyment rather than intricate plot analysis. Finally, something that I’m good at is singing, when I was younger, being in musicals was my go to. 

Now, for some, that may be indulged by doing karaoke sessions or hitting an open mic. I think this is important because you find meaning in things you do. Rather than feeling like things that are mundane, you’re actually partaking in activities because it inspires you. 

Another tip I have if resilience is something you struggle with, is to stay as connected with people as possible. Focus on the people you have strong, positive relationships with so that you can turn to them for support. However, if you’re feeling unsure about being vulnerable to your close ones, there are a number of organisations that you can reach out to such as Lifeline. Sometimes, it’s easier to open up to people you don’t know.

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