“A problem is a terrible thing to waste.” Peter Diamandis
Yes, we definitely have a “problem” and please congratulate yourself right now for pivoting, adapting and thriving in spite of and because of our situation.
Let’s take a step back for a moment.
In February, the Delta CEO was dodging criticism about whether passengers should be allowed to recline their seats!! That caused Delta shares to drop 25%!! Seems pretty inconsequential doesn’t it?
Now, there are fewer planes and fewer passengers flying and we wish all we needed to worry about was a reclined seat in front of us!
Life changes pretty darn fast. And hopefully many of us have taken stock of what is important to us.
My morning walks with our dogs is where I try to establish my headspace for the day. I deliberately try to steer my thoughts to the positive (health, family, home, friends, education) versus the negative (lockdown, no freedom to roam/interact, postponed races, postponed keynotes, no family/friend socializing). There was one particular morning when I had a breakthrough.
When I trained and raced as a professional athlete, I developed performance boosting tactics to conquer the curveballs and outsmart and outlast my competitors and elevate my talent. Those tactics are applicable to this current pandemic. I used to create a theme for each race. For example, one year at the Ironman World Championships, I was so sick with a chest infection. I was in the shape of my life but I knew that I was too sick to be able to compete with the best athletes in the world and I started to feel sorry for myself. But after thinking on it, I changed my perspective and instead felt gratitude. I was so lucky that I got to race the best athletes in the world at the most important race in endurance sport in the world. And, so I embraced who I was and decided that I would be the best person on the start line with a chest infection and with cystic fibrosis. My theme would be “gratitude” for the opportunity to do what I loved. By focusing on that theme, I elevated my lung health, my talent and my training and finished 4th place in the world on a day where I would have been forgiven for staying in bed!
This crisis is no different. It is our race and we each need a theme. My theme is “stay healthy”. And so when I feel sad about not being able to leave the house to get groceries or visit my mom or see my family and friends or go swim or go to the gym or attend a speaking event or race – I come back to the theme – “stay healthy”. When I do that, I realize that each of those “wants” defeats the “stay healthy” theme. Then I return to first principles and that keeps me from going down the vortex of frustration.
Let’s focus on what we CAN DO!! At the end of each day, I list 3 wins of the day. That is similar to another race tactic which I employed pre-race. Before each race, I would list my assets so that I could visibly see the reasons why I would be successful. They were assets such as: I am loved; I never quit a workout; I am a good problem solver; I have a great team (physiotherapist, chiropractor, massage therapist, sports doctor); I can listen; I can laugh at myself; I am educated; etc. I would also list my best workouts or workouts which were difficult but that I found a way to get done. Then, on race day, when things got rough mentally, physically and emotionally, I could revisit that list and realize that I had way more going for myself than I thought. That would help me re-focus and get back to the business of getting to the finish line the best that I could.
Just like that pre-race and race day example, it would be helpful to list all the good that is happening right now. Here are a few things:
- over 50 km of walking/biking roads have been created in Toronto to help provide physical distancing and alternative to transit. We need this to stay!
- less traffic (but yes, I know more street racing- there is always a good/bad but let’s focus on the good!!)
- more people cooking at home = less unhealthy eating = less heart disease
- re-thinking your professional and personal goals – what really matters to you?
- re-thinking where we live.
- being grateful for friend and family connections, which we may have taken for granted.
- realizing that graduation is a big deal; that teachers work hard; that health care workers deserve every penny they earn; that grocery workers and other “easy to ignore” workers are valued; that sports bring people together as fans, athletes and countries.
And to athletes who have had races postponed or cancelled. I am so sorry. But we don’t need a race to train for or an Olympic Games or an NBA Championship Game or Stanley Cup Finals. Do sport for you. To develop you. To better you. Practise discipline and calm your mind. Those skills, practised today and for the upcoming weeks, will make you a champion with or without a finish line. Can you imagine the next time you are in a race and it gets difficult? You will be able to draw on this crisis and how trudging through a 10k run or a 90k ride or the last hour of a marathon is way easier than homeschooling your kids or blowing kisses to your older parents from your car or not being able to sit with an ill family member. You will draw on the strength you are exhibiting now and that will become exponential strength for you on your race day, whenever that is. Hopefully we will never go through this again. But that said, we don’t get these days back so maximize these days. Make the most of every single minute so that you emerge a better person, parent, businessperson, athlete, partner and friend.
“Athletes, races are postponed, but stay true
to why you started sport in the first place.
Follow the process. Become better.
The resiliency, adaptation and problem solving
you will exhibit over the next many weeks will
have a greater effect on your racing than
a fast tempo run, bike time trial or swim set!” Lisa Bentley
I will leave you with the words of Winston Churchill “Sometimes when Fortune scowls most spitefully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts.”
PS – I finally published a digital version of An Unlikely Champion. You can find it on Amazon! Or get your signed paperback by ordering on my website!