Michael Jordan is perhaps the best basketballer of all time – and half of one of the world’s most profitable partnerships. He’s athletic, talented and driven, but these are traits shared by every professional sportsperson. So, compared to the best, what gave him an almost superhuman ability to stand out?
Jordan isn’t superhuman – he battled nerves like the rest of us. What set him apart was a supreme mastery of self-doubt. He wasted very little time imagining things going wrong and focused all that energy on planning for it to go well. He had such control of this ability, and he could turn almost anything into fuel. Critical feedback? It was catnip. At the mere suggestion, he wasn’t good enough; he could find a new gear and achieve seemingly impossible physical feats.
We’ve heard enough success stories to know what you’re thinking. Good for him. With his incredible stature and talent, a bit of self-belief is easy.
Incredible talent, you say? Are you talking about the guy who got cut from his varsity basketball team for ‘not being good enough’? Jordan’s place in history may now seem inevitable, but he succeeded despite experiencing the kind of setbacks that would make most people quit. Think about all the times you’ve doubted yourself after strong external invalidation of your abilities. Maybe Nat could have been an Olympic swimmer after all. 😉
Positivity is a practice
Recently, Kristen joined fellow Powrsuiter Jodi Willocks at the Wellington launch of consultancy Bastion Shine (yes, please send all the invites our way!). Also on the list were members of the world-champion Black Ferns rugby team. When we say world champion, we mean six-time world champion; these women are good. However, when co-captain Kennedy Simon stood up to speak, she recounted a tough period leading up to the world cup. They’d underperformed on a European tour, and despite overwhelming evidence of their abilities, self-doubt had well and truly embedded itself.
Then they received this challenge: “what if it all goes right?”.
That (plus a lot of internal work!) was enough to change their mindset. And it led to a record-breaking performance that redefined the place of women’s sports in popular culture. Those of us who watched the final still tear up when talking about it, but perhaps instead, we should just tear a leaf out of their book and embrace the mindset that led to their success. Because if they can do it, why not you?
Get your hopes up!
Common knowledge (and more than a few studies) recognises that success in sports is 90% mental. It’s absurd how little we apply that philosophy to our own careers, and even more absurd how often we default to doing the exact opposite.
Thankfully, failure no longer correlates with death, but our brains don’t seem to have caught up. What may have served us well when looking into a prehistoric predator’s face is limiting when facing a career
challenge opportunity. Even with very little on the line, women tend to shy away from situations that put us at risk of failing. We can default to negativity when applying for a new role, trying a new sport, or learning about topics like finance. We overanalyse all the ways things might go wrong but ignore how it could go well.
Here’s a wee truth bomb for you; when you want something, your hopes are already up. Planning for failure doesn’t protect you from the pain of it; it will still hurt. Why put the time, effort and energy behind the outcome you want the least? When we put it like that, it does feel counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
We talk a lot about having a growth mindset these days. Most of us now believe that our abilities aren’t fixed, and that we can learn and improve. Let’s go one step further and imagine the results. Imagine what that life will look like if it all goes right.
Then go ahead and do it.
30 second action:
Think back to when you took a risk. Remember how you felt at the time? How did it turn out in the end? What did you learn from it?
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