No matter how resilient you are, the latest lockdown feels like starting a marathon with tired legs, writes ex-England cricketer Jeremy Snape.
Our natural optimism that begins when the calendar flips over to a new year was burst within days. The uncertainty remains: when can we see our friends and loved ones? When will our economy bounce back? Will the vaccines be able to eradicate COVID-19 variants for good?
While the health and financial statistics are easy to measure, the burden on our mental health remains a strong but growing threat. As a former England cricketer, I know that my mindset was often the difference between my best and worst performances. On a balmy night in Calcutta in 2001, I choked under pressure in front of 120,000 people. Despite the noise of this massive crowd, the loudest voice was in my head.
This set me off on a fascinating research quest – to find out how the world’s best performers think under pressure. After completing an MSc at Loughborough University, I retired from playing to support some of the biggest names in International sport including South African cricket, Premier League football teams and England Rugby.
'On a balmy night in Calcutta in 2001, I choked under pressure in front of 120,000 people. Despite the noise of this massive crowd, the loudest voice was in my head'
The team and I at Sporting Edge have spent the last decade researching the mindset needed to thrive in adversity. We have interviewed the world’s leading thinkers and performers to understand how they recover from setbacks and keep their motivation during their most challenging times.
Our interviews with experts from business, neuroscience, performing arts, military and elite sport are inspiring thousands of executives and entrepreneurs to strengthen their mindset during lockdown.
Here are 8 insights to help you and your workforce to stay motivated while working from home:
1. Set long-term goals
England Rugby coach Eddie Jones explains that we need to set ‘inspirational long-term goals that redefine the way we are perceived and the way we perceive ourselves’. What long term goal can you stay emotionally connected to? How would you like your career, skills or company to be different in a year from now?
2. Create tangible targets
Elite cycling coach Sir Dave Brailsford builds on this: ‘Anyone can have dreams, but we need to break those down into tangible targets and behaviours so that we identify what is needed to achieve them.' Our performance comes from consistency of our daily habits and discipline not from our dreams. What does a gold medal day look like for you today? Which three priorities will make you feel satisfied and show you are making progress to your goals?
3. Revisit past performances
Dr Tara Swart, a renowned neuroscientist, encourages us to ‘reconnect with our past successes in times of self-doubt and use those positive lessons to give us the courage to keep going.’ Revisit a time when you last performed well in a difficult personal challenge – what strengths did you use to achieve this?
4. Stay calm and focused
John Coates PhD, a former trader on Wall Street turned neurobiologist, explains ‘Novelty, uncertainty and uncontrollability activate our primitive stress response” We need to stay calm by focussing on what is in our control: our self-talk, our daily wellbeing choices and spend less time catastrophising the pandemic’s next move as we can’t control that.
5. Embrace change
Bestselling author Campbell McPherson suggests that avoiding victimhood is a key step in embracing change, we need to reframe the situation so that we consider our options and take control rather than falling into a helpless state. Think like the CEO of your own company – every decision you make today either elevates or reduces your share price.
6. Build a support team
Former GB No1 tennis star Annabel Croft reinforces the need to build a world-class support team around us. Andy Murray is seen as a champion in an individual sport but he carefully picks his support team to give him whatever he needs to be at his best. Who’s in your dream team? How can you spend more time with the people who energise and support you during this period? Who can you support – empathy and relationships are the key during these challenging times.
7. Find your natural rhythm
We all have our natural rhythm, some think best in the morning, others in the late afternoon, says Professor Guy Claxton, an expert in skills development and learning. Working from home brings many competing demands, so arrange your day into focused 45-minute blocks of work and 15 minutes' downtime with defined endpoints to ensure you don’t burnout. If you're homeschooling kids, recalibrate your expectations of what’s possible, as trying to be perfect on all fronts is an unrealistic burden.
8. Stay active
Former Olympic kayaker Anna Hemmings reminds us to stay active. 'Resilience doesn’t mean being stubborn and working relentlessly – I experienced burnout and I don’t want to go there again,’ she says. How can you build exercise into your daily routine to get the huge physical and emotional benefits it brings? Leave your yoga/running gear by the bedroom door to make it easy to choose the healthy habit – you’ll feel 1-0 up before the day begins.
All of these stars have excelled in the face of adversity but that doesn’t mean it was easy. Any successful career calls for patience, optimism and adaptability. In 2021, tenacity is the new talent and our ability to keep adapting and finding new ways to approach the challenges we face will be critical. Our mindset is the cornerstone of our choices and behaviour and as a result, it holds the key to our success.
Jeremy's podcast ‘Inside the Mind of Champions’ is available here.