February 23, 2011

Be Great

Image from Fifi du Vie on Etsy
Yesterday I attended a leadership development seminar at work about tapping into the greatness already within. The premise was that people already have the capacity to be great at what they do, but allow barriers – be it self-imposed or externally driven – to interfere with reaching full potential. While certainly geared towards executive leaders and managers, it occurred to me how most of the principles just as easily apply to our personal lives as well.

One comment that hit home was the importance of focus. The presenter used the example of golf, noting that if you were to ask a golfer how much physical ability is a factor in success versus mental preparation, or focus, and the ratio you’d get is about 20/80. Yet, most golfers spend 80% of their time perfecting their physical ability and technique to just the 20% spent on preparing mentally. It was the same for me when I ran the marathon. Absolutely, without question, I spent the bulk of my energy and time on physical training. Now mind you I needed it, given I was going from inactive couch potato to marathon runner in about 5 months, but still. My 5 months were filled with short runs, long runs, hill and interval training, learning how to breathe and do 10 & 1’s. Yet, aside from a few Running Room clinics, very little time was spent on preparing mentally for the race itself. Of course, come race day my body was more than ready, it was my mind that wasn’t. I hadn’t visualized myself crossing that finish line. I didn’t have that mantra to help me push through a knee injury and fatigue. Anyone who runs knows it as much a mental sport as a physical one. Fortunately, I did have an awesome running partner who filled the void and kept me motivated.

Or to take it from another perspective, how often do we allow something else to take priority rather than do what we say is our priority. I do it all the time. I enjoy scrapbooking and often say I don’t have the time to do it as much as I’d like. So untrue. It’s just that I often choose to do something else with my time – whether it’s check email, surf facebook, watch bad TV, or whatever. I choose not to scrapbook by putting my focus somewhere else. Whether we skip exercise for some reason even though becoming healthier is on the priority list or give into that impulse buy knowing that bolstering the bank account is a top to-do, we’re simply allowing our focus to wander. The result is that we create barriers to living life the way we’d really like to.

The other comment that struck me in the session is that people often allow fear to interfere with reaching maximum potential (as the presenter put it, interFEARence). Fear of failure, fear of losing control, insecurities, fear of reprimand or ridicule. And it's so true. I wrote blog posts for about a month before sending the link to a limited number of family and friends. In a nutshell, fear. A month ago I would have defined it as doubt that’d I keep it up or concern that people wouldn’t find it interesting or care. All other ways for describing fear. Long story short, these were the personal barriers I set up to doing something I want to do. I still haven’t fully removed the barriers – I’ve not really shared the link beyond a safe circle of people who care about me, but I will at some point.

Sitting in the seminar, I recalled this quote I read somewhere recently:

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure ~ Sven Goran Eriksson

Imagine what we could all achieve if we really focus, let go of those fears and just do or be whatever it is we want. How great would that be?

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