OK, so I wouldn’t put myself in the ‘legend’ category by any account, but I did represent Australia as our first female visually impaired down-hill ski racer, so I learnt a lot about being your personal best during this part of my life. And the morning after two of the most epic sporting contests the world has seen in a while – The Cricket World Cup and the Wimbledon men’s final- I thought I’d share what I think we can learn from those athletes that get to be the best in their field.
There’s no doubt that our top athletes are blessed with unique physical abilities, but these natural gifts are enhanced by a bunch of other factors which every single one of us, no matter what our circumstances, can tap into in order to be our Personal Best.
Build on strengths
Athletes recognise early on what they are good at, and work hard to develop their talent in that field. Everyone has strengths, but sometimes they’re hidden. What are your strengths? What are you good at? What energises you and makes you feel alive and strong, and how can you nurture this strength in your work or life?
Being the best in the world doesn’t come easily to any athlete, despite what it looks like from the outside. Athletes develop their talent over a life-time of hard work and dedication, often practicing one very specific skill for hours on end. Psychologists believe it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve world-class performance in any domain. (That’s 4 hours/day, 6 days/week over 10 years for those interested!) And not just any practice – the hardest, most concentrated and deliberate practice possible. What are you doing to practice and nurture your talents and skills? You may not be aiming for 10,000 hours, but are you finding the time and opportunities to develop and improve yourself? And is your development focused, goal oriented and purposeful?
When training and competing, athletes have an extraordinary ability to focus their mental attention very narrowly on the task at hand. They’re not distracted by external factors such as spectators or weather conditions, or by their own internal thoughts and judgements. Whilst they’re subject to a huge range of emotional reactions, often within a short period of time (for example fear, pride, frustration, excitement and despair), they’ve learnt strategies for managing their emotions so they can stay focused on their performance. If, like most of us, you find that you are easily distracted, or that your emotions detract from your own performance or negatively affect those around you, then seek out ways to improve your mental focus. Sport psychology books and articles are a great place to start, or talk to a coach or psychologist about strategies that are right for you.
Get a coach
All sportspeople, regardless of their ability and level of competition, use a coach to help them set goals, overcome obstacles, maintain motivation, hone their skills, develop the right mindset and improve their performance. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t seek out the support of an appropriately skilled and objective coach to help us achieve our best in all areas of our life. If you want to be your personal best, you need to be able to monitor, manage and improve your own attitudes and behaviours, and a coach helps you develop the insight, motivation and skills to do this.
If you or your employees want to achieve a world-class performance in some area of your life, please email me for a confidential discussion about how coaching or a motivational presentation can help.