Olympic fever is upon us and if like me you have been glued to the coverage you must have been impressed by the ever growing number of medals we as a nation have won and more importantly by the skill, athleticism, focus and resilience of the participants.
How do these incredible athletes control their emotions and remain resilient when they are under such intense pressure? How do they still manage to perform?
For many of us times of intense pressure are when we discover the difficulties of performance.
Who doesn’t get derailed by the small setbacks of everyday life – a flight getting cancelled, childcare plans failing, a full and challenging diary or computer problems foiling a meeting?
The difference is resilient people have the strength to overcome these obstacles, bounce back and move forward.
Dean Becker in the HBR says “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That is true in our health, it’s true in the Olympics and it’s true in the boardroom”
Building our resilience helps us to respond to challenging circumstances, such as situations of high pressure or emotional intensity. It ensures that when faced with the inevitable difficulties of life, we are better equipped to cope with them.
Max Whitlock the double Gold medal winning gymnast is a fantastic and inspiring example of resilience. At only 23, Max won two gold medals within an hour of each other.
Whitlock has dedicated his life to gymnastics, travelling abroad at a young age, giving up what many other young people take for granted and training endlessly. He has suffered with lack of confidence in the public arena and has been driven by his desire for perfection.
Following his first win, his body would have been pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol, operating on a fine line between performance and survival, yet he appeared calm and collected during both the medal ceremony and his next stunning pommel horse performance.
In psychology we might identify Max’s state as that of the ‘state of flow’, also known as ‘being in the zone’, the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does.
No external noise, no self -talk or negativity and no limiting beliefs.
Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, this concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields, and has existed for thousands of years under other guises, Max Whitlock believed he would succeed and he did.
Emotional Intelligence is a process that can help us develop our own flow and resilience both personally and in the workplace.
Emotionally Intelligent people, whether Olympic Athletes or not, can enhance their resilience in 5 ways…
- They can focus on their Self Awareness by pausing, being present or in the zone both physically and mentally and managing feelings and emotions. All emotions are justified, acceptable and important.
- They can develop their Balanced Outlook i.e. how effectively they balance an optimistic versus realistic outlook on what may happen or has happened.
- They can express their emotions appropriately by developing their Emotional Expression and Control and being assertive rather than passive or aggressive
- They can have good Goal Directedness and align their behaviours with their long term goals, values and what is truly important to them.
- They can believe they have choices and options over how they behave and feel and act on this we call this Personal Power.
Developing resilience like any Olympic discipline takes practice but also like the Olympics can result in life changing experiences at home and in the workplace.