Date posted: 04/10/2016 5 min read

“I was at the top of my game when everything changed”

In Mental Health Month, Springfox CEO Stuart Taylor shares his journey to resilience from a cancer diagnosis 20 years ago.

In Brief

  • A cancer diagnosis forced Stuart Taylor to make changes to his fast-paced, stressful lifestyle.
  • Springfox was founded to help organisations and their people accelerate performance through improving resilience.
  • In business, resilience acts as a buffer during stressful or busy periods, protecting well-being and sustaining high performance at work.

I was at what felt like the top of my game when everything changed. It was early 2002 and I had a successful career, a loving wife and three young children. I was confident, accomplished, driven.

It started with a sharp pain in my head whenever I blew my nose. My doctor sent me for a brain scan, but I didn’t think much of it until I received the report.

I remember being told not to open it, to take it back to my GP. Of course, I opened it and while the contents seemed like another language to me, a quick Google search revealed the cause of the sharp pain was a Grade 3 brain tumour.

Almost everyone knows someone who’s been touched by cancer, but somehow we never believe it could happen to us.

The reality of it hit home once I began speaking to neurosurgeons. The general consensus was I had no more than two-and-a-half years to live. Hearing that sentence, I thought about my family. My eldest son was only five.

On reflection, I realised while I thought I was at my peak, in reality I was living unsustainably. I was constantly in the office, working excessive hours at an increasingly fast pace. I was successful, but I was also stressed, overworked and burnt out, and I’d neglected my wellbeing.

I decided that I needed to take that same dedication and determination I’d shown my career and channel it into my cancer battle.

Cancer treatment and a life overhaul

I underwent radiotherapy and brain surgery, but I wanted to do more. Before my diagnosis, I’d been sceptical about alternative therapies. But the more I researched I began to realise there was a growing body of evidence that showed lifestyle factors including diet and sleep, and practices such as meditation, could have a real impact on wellbeing when adopted in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Energised by hope, I decided to overhaul my life and make my wellbeing a priority.

Stuart Taylor, founder and CEO of Springfox

“Energised by hope, I decided to overhaul my life and make my wellbeing a priority”
Stuart Taylor

I changed my diet, I committed to daily exercise, I adopted meditation and mindfulness practices to change the way I thought and felt. I rebuilt my mental and physical resilience from the inside out. Fast forward almost 20 years and I’m still here, but my cancer is not.

Why is resilience important?

After experiencing what a profound impact these resilience building practices had on my life, I founded Springfox, formerly The Resilience Institute, to help organisations and their people accelerate performance through improving resilience.

At Springfox, we define resilience as the ability to thrive during difficult or unexpected situations. Resilience enables us to lead under pressure, maintain an optimistic outlook during periods of turbulence, navigate change with agility, and bounce forward from setbacks.

The power of resilience in business is that it acts as a buffer during particularly stressful or busy periods, preparing and enabling us to maintain balance in our lives, protect our well-being and sustain high performance at work.

Five ways to build resilience

The beauty of resilience, as I discovered almost 20 years ago, is that we can begin to cultivate it by simply going back to the basics.

1. Get into a structured sleep habit. Aim for seven to eight hours a night and wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. A good sleep routine can be transformative for those who continually function at a fast pace and high performance level.

2. Find a way to be active every day. Whether it’s yoga or a jog around the block, as little as 10 minutes of exercise daily enables us to reset and refocus, increasing mental and physical resilience in the long term.

3. Commit to a nutritious diet. A car won’t perform at its best on poor-quality fuel, and the same goes for people. Eat a nutrient-rich diet to fuel your body and mind from the inside out and notice how your energy and mood improve over time.

4. Practise mindfulness and meditation. Controlled breathing can help you improve cognitive performance, effectively manage stress, and help increase resilience by improving concentration and productivity to help you power through.

5. Connect with your spirit. One of my biggest reflections from this experience was to experience a full life with assertive humility. Taking a more spiritual approach meant that I wasn’t judging myself or others, leading to a higher level of equanimity.

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