“If we don’t change, we don’t grow, and if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
We are creatures of habit; creatures of routine and we like to have consistency and structure in most of our daily lives. Generally, the things that guide our lives are organised and run to a system- time has structure, our eating routine, our exercise routine, the time we choose to rise and sleep, how we take our coffee. Self-growth happens more often when we invest in new processes and adapt to change. Unfortunately, as a species we tend to favour the familiar and find it very difficult to step away from our usual choices or routine.
Changing our thought processes and patterns requires patience and persistency, we cannot change overnight, but gradually over time we can shift how we want to be or act.
I revert to these two terms- long term vision and short-term goals.
- We set a future long-term vision, then we work backwards in a series of short-term goals.
- Setting multiple short- term goals, helps us chip away at our long-term vision. Each of these steps is a micro step in changing our thought processes or habit.
- Then it is about stepping back and looking at the whole picture, to see the journey of micro changes you need to take, in order to get from where you are now to where you envision yourself in the future.
- Once we can visualise ourselves making the change, we have the beginning of acceptance.
- The acceptance that we need to change, acceptance that we want to change, and finally the acceptance that it won’t happen overnight, change is a focused process.
We evolve through time from child to teenager, adolescent to young adult and finally adult. Our thoughts, personalities, our values, missions and wants all growth with our age. The athlete in me only grew in these past 3 years- yes it took me nearly 14 years to grasp myself as an athlete. They say it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to produce an elite athlete, not only our physical abilities, but our mental capabilities.
Every athlete that lines up at an Olympic or Paralympic final has worked equally as hard, they have trained daily, and each deserving to be in that spot- however it is who has the correct mindset on the day to execute the race they need in order to win. Similarly, at a job interview, everyone will have incredible resumes, and a wealth of experience, but it will be the person who echoes honest confidence and clarity in themselves.
What changed for me as an athlete over this last Paralympic cycle?
Simply- my thoughts and perception of the task in front of me and the way I choose to think about it. I changed my thought process, which changed my attitude, leading to a change in my performance behaviour.
Previously I raced scared, doubtful of my abilities, and concerned too much with the outcome as opposed to the journey and effort itself. Because at the end of the day- as long as you have given everything you possibly could on the day- how can you be disappointed with yourself? Perhaps disappointed with the end result, but not yourself- you tried.
My biggest change took 3 years to grasp, it was a change in my perspective and willingness to be adaptable. My coach worked for 3 years to shift my thought processes and decision making under pressure- which is usually when we all need to be able to make the correct choices.
Regardless of the situation everyone has a plan A, B or C, even D! As an athlete I used to love a solid race plan- it would reassure me- but as with everything most plans don’t actually happen as they should! When my plans didn’t work, it created doubt, chaos, panic and then my race had extra unnecessary stress.
It’s difficult to identify our own weak spots but sometimes we should be critical of ourselves- my weak spot was the inability to make experienced adaptive decisions and be confident in my choices. By facing fear, I actually grew and now I embrace the excitement of the unknown!
To create change my coach removed my race plans altogether; he said I would learn to race making split second decisions as they presented themselves- be decisive, be present, be adaptable to whatever comes my way. At first, I hated it- what if I made the wrong choice? Then I would have to learn to be accountable. After a few races- l learnt confidence in myself from every correct move, I learnt to be adaptable, removing all the doubts and what if’s because I knew I would be able to be flexible and handle the situation. And above all of this my mind was relaxed, calm and collected, I was nervous yes, but I was excited for the opportunity to race and at peace with whatever the result would be.
I’ll be honest it wasn’t easy, I felt exposed, as I like to control things, but actually the best way to be prepared is to expect the unexpected.
This shift in my perception helped me recognise, that I am not defined as a person by one performance, it’s an accumulation and actually it’s a lifetime of learning that we are on a journey not an end destination, so we owe it to ourselves to enjoy the journey and to be open to changing if it helps us grow, be happier and experience more in life.