Posted on June 20th, 2011 by Colin and is posted in Growth
This is a guest post by Harriet Beveridge.
At school I was banned from athletics when I crashed through a hurdle and broke it, I got my nose
broken playing hockey, and my sports teacher told me I wasted energy with every step I took. So it’s fair to say I’m non brilliantly sporty. I’ve been a Corporate Executive Coach for ten years and I’ve alsobeen sceptical of using sporting strategies in everyday life. If someone is psycho enough to train all day, every day for years on end – and all for just the glimmer of a chance of winning Wimbledon, or whatever – then good luck to them, but I’m not a machine. I am ambitious in my career, but I have kids and a pile of ironing to worry about too.
Then I met Ben Hunt-Davis. Put aside the fact that he rather tall and you’d never guess he was a sportsman, let alone a smartie-pants Olympic Gold medallist. He is a good laugh, he makes mistakes, he can be shy, lazy, an idiot, he loses his temper; in other words he is a straightforward and very normal guy, which got me fascinated. How can an ordinary person get such extraordinary results? Is it just luck? Is it sports-specific geeky stuff? Or are there secrets I can steal from his experiences to get more out of my life?
The answer was a resounding yes, so much so that Ben and I have just published Will It Make the Boat Go Faster? Olympic-Winning Strategies for Everyday Success. If you follow this link: www.willitmaketheboatgofaster.com you can sign up for a free e course or buy the book for just £10 (RRP £12.99) by entering “BOAT” in the discount code box.
This is a very personal article: I’m sharing three of my favourite strategies – three quirky, surprising ones which after a decade of Executive Coaching I found refreshing and particularly invigorating in my own life. I hope you find them as helpful as I have.
1. Use Bullshit Filters
I used to waste a heck of a lot of time worrying about what other people think. Do you? What impact does that have? Stress? Opportunities missed?… Ben and the crew used the strategy of “bullshit filters” – filtering out unhelpful information and focussing on what’s useful. The first step is to spot the difference between fact and opinion. When other sportsmen said they were too old or not fit enough, they realised this was pure opinion. When their loved ones tried to protect them by saying perhaps they should forget about their dream and get a proper job, they realised it was pure opinion too.
I have found this simple distinction between fact and opinion SO liberating. For example, we mums get bombarded with advice and judgement about what we should be doing. Now when I get the judgemental look from a fellow shopper (when I’m in the supermarket queue and my kids are running riot) I can pause before getting wound up. Is the other person really judging me? Is that a fact or my guess? And if he does think poorly of me, well that’s his opinion based on two minutes observation– he doesn’t know anything about us or what kind of day we’ve had – I can reflect on what’s useful about his opinion and then choose how to act.
2. Make excuses!!
This is a controversial one and it’s already got me some flak (thank goodness for bullshit filters!). At first I too was very resistant to this crew strategy – as a Coach I’ve stood firmly for zero tolerance for excuses because I believe we need to take personal responsibility for our actions and our circumstances. For example I’ve let some projects slip this year and it’s easy to make the excuse “I haven’t enough time”, but Richard Branson doesn’t have 25 hours in the day, so I should stop making excuses and make the time.
But the problem with not making excuses is that we can veer to the other extreme (especially those of us committed to personal development and drawn to a website like Colin’s!). We confuse reasons and excuses and beat ourselves up terribly. We’ve all screwed up a conversation or presentation or document and taken the weight of the world on our shoulders haven’t we?
If you look up reason and excuse in the dictionary, the entries are pretty similar:
Excuse: reason put forward to mitigate or justify offence
Reason: motive or cause or justification
The difference is the intention behind it. Ben and the crew didn’t make excuses in order to wallow in misery; they just wanted to move on – and took 100% personal responsibility for turning things around.
Have you seen people use this approach with their kids? “Never mind that you lost the football match, darling, the other team were really good.” Do they go on to say “so we’ll just give your kit to Oxfam and you can stay inside and watch telly next Saturday”? Of course not, they’re more likely to say something like “better luck next time”, or “let’s do loads of practice this week, then.”
Isn’t it funny that we’ll use excuses to help other people move on, but we don’t use this strategy on ourselves?
3. Be bloody-minded.
Is it a British thing? A female thing? I suspect no, it’s a universal thing – that we are all brought up to judge some emotions as unacceptable. I used to brand myself a failure to feel angry or fearful and got incredibly stressed about feeling stressed. But Ben and his crew actively tapped into their emotions and used them as fuel to help them move forwards. For example Ben physically vomited due to nerves before most regattas but his crew mates celebrated this saying it showed he was ‘up for it’. Ben persevered through painful weight training by getting angry at his competitors and he reasoned that it was good to get upset about setbacks because it showed he wanted the Olympic goal strongly.
Our emotions are simply messages we need to decode, a bit like advice given in a foreign language. Take fear for example. We’ve got a key meeting in the morning and we’re anxious. What is that churning in our belly, the sweaty palms and the nightmares of walking down Oxford Street in our pyjamas trying to tell us? It’s saying ‘Think this one through! Do some preparation, get some support’.
Sadly, by judging some emotions “unacceptable” we are basically putting our fingers in our ears and the message gets lost in translation. Many people interpret fear as a sign to stop. That might be an option, but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion.
Passion about your goal, or anger about an injustice that needs to be rectified, or serenity that ‘these things come to try us’ are immensely powerful drivers, so tune into your emotions and embrace them.
It was genuinely hard to stick to a short article on just three tips. I also love control the controllables, getting a personal cheerleader, making it happen, don’t talk bollocks to Basil, flicking the switch and many more. If you’ve found this article useful then go to: www.willitmaketheboatgofaster.com to sign up for the free e course or buy the book for just £10 (RRP £12.99) by entering “BOAT” in the discount code box.
Please leave a comment for Harriet and let her know your thoughts. Also, if you like the post please give it some Facebook love and spread the word.