It’s quite rare that you can find real gemstones on your doorstep, but that’s exactly what happened when I went along to a peak performance workshop as part of the Love Marlow series of events.
In case you didn’t know, Love Marlow is an initiative of Churches Together in Marlow, working in partnership with local community groups, businesses and the town council. Their vision is for Marlow to be a town in which life, love, and all that is good is held up and celebrated. This year the festival was packed with a wide range of activities – sports events, live music, art displays & drama, craft workshops, fun stuff for kids, and opportunities to help the elderly and vulnerable in various practical ways.
The first speaker was STEVEN SYLVESTER who is a former professional cricketer and a leading Sports Psychologist providing a new approach to human performance in professional sport, business and life in general. He has worked with a number of world-class athletes to develop his unique framework to accelerate and enhance their performance. His framework for peak performance is explained in his book Detox Your Ego. In a nutshell, he claims that it is our ego that stops us from performing at our best. Our ego is a natural defence systems hitch is triggered when strong emotions such as fear and anxiety sweep through us. When we are looking to embark on doing something important – be it a final exam, a career defining boardroom speech or a key race, our ego will almost certainly interfere to a degree.
During his speech he gave a flavour of what we can do to be freer, happier and more successful in all walks of life, so here are some tips about how to tackle our ego when it gets in the way:-
- You must have a hunger to stop listening to the negative things you tell yourself when you are under pressure. In these moments it is critical to rectify these unproductive thoughts by changing them to positive ones which you know will energise you and make you happy.
- We often tend to operate on having a win/lose mindset by default, however, it is a very selfish way of thinking which only draws in more fear and anxiety as a by-product. So we should instead find and focus on a bigger purpose – ask ourselves, why we are trying to achieve what we are trying to achieve, as this is more likely to lead to feelings of freedom and happiness. This also involves accepting your position (in sport, in your career, in life etc.) i.e. the fact that it’s not only about you!
- The next point is around our ability to reason and make decisions when under pressure. We need to have a deep seated awareness of what choices we have – the options usually include selfish and selfless ones.
- What do you do in situations when the uncomfortable truth emerges? It takes a huge amount of honesty and self-awareness to face up to our weaknesses and shortcomings, instead of pushing these things away from ourselves which is our natural tendency. The skill of self-reflection is very important in recognising where we need to improve or make some changes.
- Another characteristic of having a winning mindset is the relational or emotional ability to connect with other people and to utilise the energy of others to support your endeavours. Having the right team and support network around you is often very underrated as people tend to look at needing others as a sign of weakness. The other side of the coin is to have the ability to give unconditionally to others and lifting those up around you. If you are prepared to serve others as opposed to being driven by self-interest, you are all likely to achieve more!
- Persistence is another key attribute especially in the face of adversity and failure. Too much self-criticism can be unproductive to this. The focus instead should be on self care and being kind to yourself.
- Our fear of being rejected by others and not being good enough can hold us back from being the best we can be, so this is definitely an area to address whatever you may be facing.
Steven’s final words were a really good take away to bring it all together: if your body, mind and spirit (heart) are not aligned, you cannot fulfil your potential! Often there’s a disconnect because people treat these areas separately, especially in the Western cultures. One way to align these areas is to live a values based life because it is your values that ultimately drive everything!
The second speaker was JENNY TSCHIESCHE from ‘the next door’ in Marlow, a nutritional therapist and founder of Lunchboxdoctor.com. Her passion lies in working with schools, parents and sports teams to create higher quality meal plans for children. She has made a number of appearances on TV and radio to ‘spread the word’.
Her presentation focussed primarily on sports nutrition and what foods to eat to fuel your performance, based on the so-called GO/GLOW/GROW categorisation:-
- GO foods – which give you energy (fats, carbs);
- GLOW foods – which generally keep our bodies well (which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals etc.);
- GROW foods – which help us grow strong and build muscle (protein rich foods).
I kind of feel this topic is so broad that it deserves a separate blog entry, so watch this space!
Finally, the third speaker was PROFESSOR GREG WHYTE who is an internationally recognised expert in the fields of psychology, sports and exercise performance. He has earned his fame through assessing, treating and improving the performance of people ranging from cancer sufferers, celebrities attempting charity challenges to elite athletes. An Olympian and both European and world championship medalist in modern pentathlon, he was awarded the OBE for his services to sport, sports science and charity in 2014. His book (which inspired the theme of the evening) Achieve the Impossible is all about how to overcome challenges, develop true grit and achieve success in life, work and sport.
Greg prepared David Walliams for his swim through the English Channel, which took him over 10 hours
It was also Greg who prepared Eddie Izzard for his gruelling 27 marathon challenge
I have found him him to be a very entertaining and down to earth speaker who cuts out tthe bullsh*t for you and speaks the truth plainly – namely that anything worth having cannot be achieved without hard work, determination and good planning. There is no magic formula or shortcuts! Given the time limit for the evening, of course he could only just scratch the surface on this slightly deep topic, so if you want to learn more, I suggest that you read his book (which is already on my Amazon wish list together with Detox Your Ego!), but here is a short summary of the key determinants of success he spoke about to give you a bit of foretaste:-
- ‘Impossible’ is just a word we use to limit ourselves and we are often bound by our own beliefs about what we can or cannot do. A prime example for this is Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile for the first time in human history. Upon crossing the finish line, he joked that ‘Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I must be dead.’ So we really shouldn’t chicken out of setting audacious goals. Think about Eddie Izzard who has managed to complete a staggering 27 marathons in 27 days, and David Walliams swimming through the choppy waters of the English Channel, both of them raising more than £1 million each for Sports Relief! The bottom line is: you don’t need to be a super human to dream big and be legendary! (Please don’t get me started on how fast they ran or swam because then you are missing the whole point!)
- The second point feeds from this: to achieve something, you need to work at it, one step at a time…
- Understand what is required to achieve your goal, and establish the risks that may stop you. If you proactively anticipate these, you can create solutions to overcome these. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you will need a purposefully built training plan which amongst other things includes long runs so you can build up the distance gradually, a good nutrition strategy to fuel your training and your race, a reliable physio who can mend you in case you sustain injuries, and you will probably need to enlist some support from your family as well to make sure you are able to devote enough time to training. And so on.
- You must not underestimate the power of believing in yourself – what are you going to draw on when the going gets tough, how are you going to stay motivated?
- Never assume! Nothing good comes easy – always respect the challenge even if it appears to be easy at first. Success is all about hard work you put in and the quality of it.
- There is no ‘I’ in a team but there is a ‘Me’. You do need a good network behind you to support your efforts.
The evening finished with a Q&A session, and we could have easily stayed the whole night to explore these topics in greater depth. I for one definitely left the building feeling well equipped with some nourishing food for thought which I would definitely like to reflect more on. I’ve never been to a workshop which had been both so praticical and spiritually stimulating at the same time! So here is my personal take away which I hope to apply as I am preparing for my challenges ahead:-
- I shouldn’t be afraid or proud to ask for help and surround myself with people who have the same goals as I do, even people who are better than I am in a particular area such as running, blogging or HR. This way I could build a strong support network around myself, instead of looking at them as ‘competition’, this way I could learn and grow through them. I could also lift others up – maximising the chances of success for all of us.
- I need to put things into a greater perspective rather than apply narrow focus on things. For example, how will building a fit, healthy and happy body help me serve others better (family, causes I am passionate about)? At the end of the day, life is not about what I have accomplished or won, but it’s about who I’ve lifted up, whom I’ve made a better person, it’s about what I have given back. In Mark 10:45, the Bible says that Jesus has set the example: ‘for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.
- Hold up the ‘selfish/selfless’ lense before reacting, making big decisions or when I’m under pressure to examine my drivers.