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5 Key Habits to Help Build Mental, Emotional and Physical Resilience.

 Coco Quirke

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” – Robert Jordan

‘Resilience’ is a buzz word for a reason. It’s our response to adversity, how we overcome hardship and challenges – that mental reservoir of strength we tap into in times of need. Terms like ‘bouncing back’ and ‘rising from the ashes’ are all about harnessing our resilience not just to survive a trauma, but to thrive in the aftermath. So how can we build our resilience to ensure we’re well equipped to deal with whatever curveballs life throws at us? We asked McQuilty ‘Coco’ Quirke, ex-Army medic, trauma survivor and resilience expert, for some advice.

With an 18-year army career covering the war zones of East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan as a medic, soldier and leader, there is no-one better equipped to talk about resilience and overcoming adversity than Coco Quirke.

Having courageously battled post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the horrors of war in Iraq to return to active duty, Coco’s army career was put on hold in 2011 when an improvised explosive device detonated under his vehicle in Afghanistan. Coco was catapulted headfirst 30 metres down the road, suffering multiple life-threatening injuries including two shattered vertebrae, broken bones in every limb and a traumatic brain injury. Coco had to be revived 3 times on his way to Germany for specialist treatment and spent more than 6 months in hospital undergoing multiple surgeries. Defying the doctor’s prognosis, Coco took his first steps just 3 months after the explosion, his recovery hard-fought and his attitude resolute.

On his long road to recovery, both from PTSD and severe injury, Coco worked hard on building a positive mindset. It became his priority, and eventually his saviour, as he dealt with ongoing physical and mental challenges. Coco learnt that practising good habits creates a happy brain, and a happy brain develops a positive mental mindset. And it’s that positive mental mindset that he believes is the key to building resilience.

These are the 5 fundamental habits that continue to help Coco maintain his positive mentality:  

1. #take3steps
The hardest 3 steps you will take every day will be the first 3 steps you take away from your bed. Your bed is your safe place. Some days you wake up not feeling good, the easy option is to stay where you are safe, warm and comfortable.

2. #InnerVoice
Those days you find yourself wanting to stay in bed, you need an Inner Voice to help you get up and take those first 3 steps. That voice that says, “No Coco, the easy way is to lie here, the hard way is the right way. Get up and take those 3 steps.” Then you keep walking!

3. #BeTheWolf
Go out and get what’s yours. Be the Wolf is about having a fighting mindset, a positive attitude that you will achieve your goals that day. This takes preparation and starts the night before. Bring into focus your dream goal, break it down into achievable daily goals, and then adopt your #BetheWolf mindset to fight for those goals. It all starts with these ‘non-negotiables’ that you write down every morning and evening:
– Gratefuls: 3 things you are grateful for – family, wife, house, job, dream car…
Reflection: 3 goals for the day – did you achieve them? Why not
Goals: 3 achievable goals for tomorrow

4. #FeedTheWolf
To build a positive mindset we must feed the wolf. Nutrition is very important – we should have a balanced diet so we can work at optimum capability every day. Sleep is another critical factor, helping our body recover mentally, physically and emotionally. To help with sleep, do something meditative before you go to bed like breathing techniques, reading, listening to music, watching a candle.

5. #LiveLoveLaugh
We get so consumed by work and deadlines we can forget about those closest to us. When was the last time you played a game with your kids, watched a movie with your wife? The last time you laughed with your mates? Remember this, when you walk through adversity, those that mean the most to you will always be beside you. Make time for them.

Coco’s concept is simple and powerful, and his time is now dedicated to encouraging others to build resilience by implementing good habits and creating a positive attitude. He uses his lived experience to inspire and motivate others, humbly presenting his learnings to businesses, schools, military units and sporting bodies like the NRL Cowboys, Qantas Wallabies and Australian Kangaroos.

If there’s a key message to take from Coco’s experience, it’s that people have the power to build their own resilience. Resilience isn’t dictated by genetics, it’s a set of skills that are developed and, most importantly, can be learned. And that’s what Coco does – he gives people a toolbox of techniques that help them build the capacity to cope when things go wrong. And go wrong they will. But as Friedrich Nietzsche said (and Kelly Clarkson for the millennials): what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.


Coco’s captivating journey and his passionate and humble presentation style make him one of our most popular motivational speakers. His feedback is always exceptional, and his presentations are a guaranteed event highlight. If you’d like to engage Coco to show your team how to build resilience by implementing good habits and creating a positive attitude, get in touch with us for a chat.