Like most of the world, I have been watching the Olympics, awed by the skill and dedication shown by each athlete. The nerves on their behalf have had me on the edge of my seat as they line up, or step up, or jump up, to compete in front of the World, willing them not to fall or stumble. I can only imagine what is going through each athletes mind as these few seconds of competition arrive and pass.
Athletes from the around the world are getting ready to perform in the spotlight. The participants will have been training for years, maybe a lifetime, for this opportunity to compete with the best and to represent their countries. It is an amazing achievement of dedication, hard work, pain, sweat and tears for an event that may be over in mere seconds. Each athlete will have trained with coaches and a huge army of supporting experts to help ensure that they are at the peak of their physical condition, able to perform at their best and to be recognized as the Olympic Champion.
The Olympic Games do not just represent exceptional physical preparation and performance. The Games are also a powerful example of Emotional Intelligence in action and the mental preparation required to be successful. Emotions drive behavior especially in stressful situations, when the pressure is on, the world is watching and this is THE moment when YOU are expected to become the best in the world. In that moment, it is not only about what you’ve trained your body to do. It’s how you stay in the game emotionally. Those athletes who haven’t learned to manage their emotional reactions, to quieten their [negative] inner voice, to steady and focus any nerves to the task at hand can inadvertently sabotage their efforts and find themselves setting their personal worst rather than their personal best.
Even when an athlete does make it to the podium the reaction and comments from others continues to amaze me. I was listening to one commentator who in providing their "expert" opinion one performance and the medal winners was heard to say
"Just a bronze medal for X who was expecting gold."
"Just" is such a powerful word and an unfortunate choice when talking about almost anything, let alone a Bronze Medal in the Olympics. It is one of the worst "self-talk" comments that we can say to ourselves or believe about others as it tends to takeaway and diminish the results and confidence to those whom it is applied.
In a previous "career" I was the Branch Manager for two key branches for a major bank in the UK. When I was first appointed to the role one of the branches I managed had a poor reputation for customer service, for its performance metrics compared to other branches in the region. When I met with my new team and staff some of the reason for this under performance was immediately apparent. A lack of self-confidence and pride in their roles and the branch as a whole. My cashiers (tellers) would say
"I'm just a part-time cashier."
My response was that there was no "just" about it. As cashiers they were the face of the bank to our customers. They were the first port of call for customers with questions and banking needs. They had a huge and direct impact on the success of our team. Building the confidence of the cashier team and empowering them to proactively talk to customers to identify their needs and make informed recommendations as to products and services that would HELP our customers resulted in an almost immediate turnaround in morale, engagement and results. That branch finished in the top 3 for the region. Everyone contributed and no one considered themselves as "just part-time" any more. It was wonderful!
As I think about the Olympics and the outstanding performance that all the athletes and especially medal winners put into their performance, there is no "just a bronze" in my mind. A bronze medal means you are the THIRD fastest, strongest, most accurate, flexible athlete IN THE WORLD.
Where do you let the word "just" limit your contribution or mindset?
You are not "just a housewife/husband" or "just a [insert your occupation]" you are a valuable member of your community and society. Step up, stand tall and receive your medal!