EXCLUSIVE: Ollie Ollerton says changing habits and setting goals builds resilience

Employee Benefits Live 2022: Everyone needs to set themselves challenging goals to support personal growth and build resilience, said Ollie Ollerton, former special forces operative.

Opening day two of Employee Benefits Live on Thursday 6 October, Ollerton’s keynote speech, ‘Power to perform’, detailed how his life experiences have helped him to change his mindset and break habitual behaviour in order to achieve success.

A key message he has leaned on from his very first day of the special forces is ‘just do today’; when we are faced with pressure but have a goal to achieve, our brains look for the path of least resistence and the easy way out. Taking each day at a time can help to reach our goals.

Ollerton talked to delegates about the toll that his military career and his subsequent work to infiltrate child trafficking gangs took on his mental health, and the steps he took to recover.

This involved following a strict regime of exercise, meditation and visualisation of the goals he wanted to achieve.

“Our greatest discovery is our ability to be aware of our own human dysfunction. There is no stronger driving force than our need to survive,” said Ollerton. “The habit loop is linked to survival; it’s kept us alive and doesn’t care if it’s a good situation or a bad situation. So when we want to make any organisational or personal changes, straight away we meet a barrier. Our minds are reluctant to want to carry on.”

Ollerton explained that falling into the trap of avoiding obstacles, sticking to habits and looking for shortcuts, will lead to people losing sight of their goals and living a monotonous life.

People need to put a goal-setting process in place which will help to break habits, said Ollerton. This includes creating a vision and a clear plan with an end date, choosing goals that both scare and excite in order to be challenged, and following plans with discipline and process.

“Change is inevitable, growth is a choice,” said Ollerton. “We should all be looking to grow and evolve on a regular basis. Each and every person should be looking to how they can better themselves. How can we identify the negative habits that hold us back from being who we want to be.”

Ollerton believes that some people have more resilience than others, but it is something that can be built. “Learn from failure; don’t get knocked back,” he said. “Throw yourself into something with courage and learn from it. That is what builds resilience.”

To support employees with their mental health resilience, organisations need to make sure they are working on their mental wealth programmes, said Ollerton. To do so, they should encourage physical activities, exercise, meditation, and other wellbeing initiatives. “We need to work a lot more on mental wealth, it’s the best investment we can make,” he said.