Carl Benfield is an ex-army officer based in the Midlands who now runs a consultancy that specialises in working with SMEs. After graduating in civil engineering, he joined the army as an engineering officer where he stayed for 16 years, working on a variety of engineering assignments, including battlefield, construction, power and intelligence. After this he worked in the renewable energy sector, setting up his own energy company that he ran for nine years before becoming a consultant in 2018.
The majority of the civilian population, think that people in the military are mentally resilient and tough. On the whole this is true and when people leave the military to enter civilian life they feel they have very positive attributes to offer – versatility, resilience, energy and excellent training and they feel they’ll be able to move easily into civilian life. Other people through can find leaving the Armed Forces a very daunting prospect. After years of working and living in a very structured lifestyle, they are starting from scratch and need to create a completely new civilian life.
On leaving the Army, Carl moved into the Renewable Energy sector, a difficult selling environment that required huge resources financially, emotionally and mentally. Although his military training had prepared him well, he found that over nine years his ability to be resilient was gradually eroded. Because it crept in by degrees, he was unaware of what was happening so was not prepared and he didn’t expect it to happen to him.
Traditionally we have been told that if you persevere you will succeed but sometimes this is just not the case. If you are on the wrong path, you are not going to find the answer you need and stubbornness is not a resilient approach. It is in situations like this that self-awareness and self-management need to come together to tell us when to take a break or change tack.
It can be very hard to know when to keep going and when to move on. Perseverance and grit can be essential to achieving success and in many cases “sticking with it” can be critical. On the other hand, successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, why keep doing it? Why not make changes or simply quit? Both options work – sometimes you need to be confident and redouble your efforts but other times you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new.
Self-awareness is essential as it helps us understand ourselves, the way we work, our strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and preferences. If we have this skill, we’ll find it easier to make changes and build on areas of strength, identify improvements and set goals. We’ll be more aware of what we’re good at and understand what we still have yet to learn and this includes admitting when we don’t have the answer or have made mistakes. Sometimes it can be healthy not to be able to cope, to stop and to take a reality check and then use our resilience to learn from our mistakes and bounce back.