Bypassing the drama to OCRWC success

Credit: Joshua Earle

Picture the scene…

It’s autumn 2016, the leaves are turning, the sun still shines occasionally and the mud is becoming that little bit stickier as the rains soften up the areas that weren’t boggy.

You’ve completed a few OCRs, you have the ‘kisses’, scrapes and medals to prove it and one October weekend you see posts on social media about the awesome time the worlds’ best, your friends and your teammates are having in the Blue Mountains, Canada at the OCR World Championships (OCRWC).

You decide there and then you’re going to be there in 2017, and begin planning your route to get there – Which events are qualifiers? Am I capable of qualifying? How will I need to train to make it? Can I convince the other half to make it a family trip ‘that we’ll all enjoy’?

Sounds like a familiar train of thought, right?

With the 2017 OCRWCs just around the corner that moment you’ve been training for is within sight, and with it comes a growing sense of nervousness, excitement, anxiety and tension that ultimately could lead to you limiting your own ability to perform to the level you are capable of, on one of the biggest stages OCR has to offer.

 

Uncertainty from the unknown

Credit: Tim Swaan

Those feelings, the one’s that sometimes keep you up at night and almost certainly do the night before a race, are often rooted in the uncertainty brought on by the unknown.

As children, the unknown never fazed us. We would happily climb any tower, traverse ropes over muddy holes and generally take on any adventure laid before us with an unbound enthusiasm.

As we grow, our conscious takes in the information from the world around us, programming the sights, sounds and emotions we experience into our subconscious. Current neuroscience suggests these programmes can be stored as autobiographical memories (one highly memorable experience like the time you lost your favourite toy) or episodic memories (repeated experiences like the process for tying your shoe laces).

As adults, our brains seek to find comfort in these memories, moving towards repeating the memories we enjoy, both episodic and autobiographical, and avoiding repeat of the ones that can cause us psychological, physical or emotional distress.

The challenge the unknown brings is that our brains rapidly start to sift through our memories trying to find comfort in what lies ahead, seeking out what we know. But this instantly gets skewed because we feel there is uncertainty in the experience because we know it is new. This cycle of known è unknown è certainty è uncertainty keeps repeating until the start line, escalating and building in perceived tension until the start gun fires. If not worked with appropriately, this tension can limit your ability to perform as well as your training has prepared you for.

What follows are a few simple things to put into practice to help minimise that tension in the build up to the race, and use the butterflies you will get positively to achieve more.

 

Control the controllable 

Credit: Ahmed Saffu

Within the cycle, there are two controllables (known, certainty) and two uncontrollable (unknown, uncertainty) and you always have a choice as to which you dedicate your conscious thoughts towards.

By choosing to concentrate on the controllables, and repeatedly doing this in the build up to the race, you will give yourself less time to consider the uncontrollables and feel the negative effects of them.

Now, you might be thinking ‘there’s so much stuff I don’t know when I get there; the course map, the obstacles, the registration tent, the supermarket with the meals I need, my hotel room’ and yes they initially they may be unknowns.

However, you have a chance to learn about these things, and if you approach that positively with the confidence you will make them ‘knowns’ before the race, you will be controlling what you can control.

For example, before you leave home take a look at a map of the Blue Mountain resort, find the square, find your accommodation, locate the supermarket. When you then receive the event map, you can contextualise that information with what you already know.

The same applies with the obstacles. OCRWC use obstacles from across the world to make an exciting and challenging event. For the one’s you’ve seen before, think through your strategy and technique for crossing each one with optimal efficiency, and take an inner confidence from the fact you can conquer it when you apply the right techniques.

If an obstacle is unknown to you, use your downtime to get researching across Facebook and YouTube. There’s a very good chance there will be videos of people tackling the obstacles at their home race, and maybe even ‘how to conquer’ videos published by the RDs. Talk with your fellow racers, call your coach back home, discuss what you’re thinking and work out a way to control how you are going to approach that obstacle when you come to it in the race.

In short, if you recognise tension building, consider what your unknown is, ask yourself what do I need to learn to make it a known and enjoy that learning.

 

Focus on the inputs

Credit: Ethan Hoover

One easy trap a lot of athletes fall into before a big race is they concentrate on the result they want to achieve, and lose sight of what it’s going to take to get there. This happens more when there is tension building, especially for big events.

This is often a result of our brains trying to find psychological safety by anchoring onto a tangible number to work towards.

It’s great to have goals, and achieving a certain time or position may be your goal as it spurs you on to train hard and keep going.

However, to truly unlock your potential and get yourself into ‘the Zone’, you need to focus on your inputs, articulating your goals as forward-looking statements rather than things you will achieve.

For example, instead of saying “I am going to finish in the Top 50 of my age category”, rephrasing to “I am going to run consistently at 80-90% of my top speed for the first two-thirds of the race, then leave everything on the course for the final third” is going to give you a strong input to focus on, which may lead to achieving the position you desire.

Another example would be around the phrase “I am going to keep my band.” Instead, make the agreement with yourself “to be fully composed before and through every obstacle I face.” followed by specific statements around what actions you will take to complete each and every obstacle.

Thinking about what you are going to put in rather than what you want to get out will always set you up for success.

 

Remember your Why

Credit: Pineapple Supply Co.

This one may seem like a simple one, but the simplest concepts are often the most powerful.

It can be easy to get caught up in the process of achieving the goals you set yourself and executing the training plan relentlessly to get there. You will make sacrifices. You may conflict with those you are close. You may get injured and work twice as hard to get back to the strength you previously had.

All of which can limit your ability to perform because they are compromises you have had to make to get to where you think you want to be.

Having clarity in your True Why well before you race can help you frame those compromises positively and take the pressure off yourself.

It has to be your True Why though. Achieving a medal is not a True Why. It is a representation of your True Why. Your True Why could be achieving something that you didn’t think you could do. It could be you’ve had a life-threatening condition and achieving the medal proves to yourself that anything is possible.

Thinking about what racing gives you, the reasons you got into it in the first place, and crucially the identity you want to have for participating all can help you gain clarity in your True Why, which can contextualise all the positive and negative emotions you experience around the race.

To find your True Why, find a quiet space for 15 minutes with a pen and paper and answer this question – ‘Why do I do what I do?’. Note the thoughts you have down honestly, respectfully, and with positive intent, and at the end of the 15 minutes, finish the sentence “My true why is…”

All the best in Canada.

Graham

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Do the roots of happiness differ between the Generations?

In the week of the United Nations International Day of Happiness, and Norway becoming the ‘happiest place on Earth’, it got me pondering about whether the roots of happiness differ fundamentally between Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.

The title ‘happiest place on Earth’ comes from research carried out by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which publishes the World Happiness Report and uses perspectives on economic strength (measured in GDP per capita), freedom of choice, life expectancy, social support, generosity and perceived corruption to assess the level of happiness in each country.

The data suggests that happiness is not purely down to the level of economic stability and strength a country has. These seem to be the foundations upon which a country’s happiness can be built. However once these are broadly established to an acceptable standard by society, the differences in mental and physical health as well as the strength of personal relationships that can be established in a country become the differentiating factors.

So are there differences between what makes Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z happy?

It’s really difficult to say, because what makes one person happy may be completely different to the things that make the person standing next to them happy, irrespective of the generation they are from.

However, if we consider some of the component factors that people of found happiness from, we may be able to consider some perspectives on the Multi-Generational aspect to the question.

Fun

It could be argued happiness can be associated with the sense of fun one has in their lives. Sources of fun have evolved over the years, with fun activities evolving from pick-up-sticks and dominoes, through kerbie and kerplunk, to Battlefield 4 and pulling faces with the latest Snapchat filters.

But as Lamm and Meeks (2009) found, each generational cohort responds differently to fun in the workplace. Their research showed Millennials showing a stronger association between workplace fun and individual outcomes than Generation X.

This difference was attributed to variability in the upbringings of each Generation, with Generation X being wary of giving too much of themselves to the corporation having seen the axe fall during economic downturns, and Millennials being open to fun collective environments that mirror the worlds’ in which they grew up in.

Trust

Another aspect could be how much fun elicits trust between team members.

Han et al (2016) highlight that enhanced team performance can be achieved by introducing workplace fun, as the participation by all increases levels of trust and group cohesion that in-turn reduces intra-team conflict and increases inter-personal citizenship behaviours, irrespective of the generation of the team members.

Financial

Finally, financial drivers can be seen to be different between the Generations, with Generation X reportedly appreciating the value of goods more than Millennials and Generation Z due to them experiencing the increases in cost of good throughout their lifetime.

Values

However, if we look at people’s values, and crucially their tolerance towards other people’s values, we may find a foundation of understanding that enables us to move away from the generational labels of happiness towards what makes each individual happy.

It has been observed that our values (and associated beliefs) arise from those we trust growing up, with us either deciding to align to those values passed down to us or rebelling against them and holding a different set of values to be true.

Each Generation has had its own challenges, such as economic uncertainty, political instability and change, the integration of technology into our lives as well as environmental and societal disasters, and the response to each event by each generation has led to the values that are held to be true.

But at an individual level those responses will be largely or subtly different, and it is our ability to be curious to explore the story behind another individual does what they do that can lead to us connecting with the values an individual holds true, and ultimately what makes someone happy.

Therefore for now, my ponderings lead me to suggest that there are not differences between what makes Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z happy. It is more there are differences between what makes individuals happy, regardless of Generation, and a positive, curious exploration into the values that individual has can enable us to see what genuinely brings a smile to someone’s face, wherever they may be.

 

Graham

 

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Ispire Motivational Coaching | 3 Generations - Multiple Values - Infinite Possibilities

3 Generations – Multiple Values – Infinite Possibilities

For some years now, the topic of Generation X, Generation Y and now Generation Z and the relationships between each cohort has been ever-present in conversations at the water fountains, in boardrooms and smoothie bars of organisations around the world.

These three groups now make up the majority of the working population, occupying positions from the top to the bottom of organisations that offer us the opportunity to be part of multigenerational teams where we can apply our knowledge, collaborate to solve problems and ultimately give ourselves a standard of living that we can hopefully enjoy or strive towards achieving.

But the conversations are interesting ones, often focusing on the perceptions, judgments and biases of one Generation’s experiences over another and why one Generation needs to change in order to satisfy the wants, needs and beliefs of those they work with. This usually leads to disagreements and conflict, suppression of ideas and internal conflicts that can limit the ability of a team to perform to its highest potential.

Some argue that societies are defined by inequalities that produce conflict and the disadvantaged have interests that run counter to those of the status quo, which when assumed forces social change that is then seen as the norm (Sears, 2005). Others just call it as they see it, saying they are misunderstood, misheard and mistreated by the others they work with.

Observers have noted varying behaviour patterns for each Generation, which can point towards some of the differences experienced within teams.

Generational characteristics

Generation X have been broadly characterised as being skeptical, resourceful, independent and straightforward, seeking flexibility and work-life balance from the organisations they work for (Abrams and Von Frank, 2013).

Generation Y (Millennials) on the other hand are known to be tech savvy, collaborative and versatile, seeking fast rewards, instant feedback and are confident in their own capabilities within the work place (Abrams and Von Frank, 2013).

And now coming into the workplace are Generation Z, or as some have labelled them Plurals, a cynical, private, multi-tasking group of hyper-aware and technology-reliant individuals who value honesty and privacy; they are so familiar with receiving stimuli from every direction possible that they think and act with a complexity that is incomprehensible to some (Elmore, 2015).

In team situations, these behaviours can be the cause of deep frustration for some.

A scenario that might seem familiar

Consider for a moment a regular team meeting that everyone has been asked to attend. A Generation X team member remembers the principles passed down to them about the importance of presence and physical interaction at meetings, and arrives ready for the meeting having researched and prepared for the meeting days in advance.

A Generation Y member has taken some time to consider the agenda beforehand, but, safe in the knowledge they have technology at hand, they can source the answers to the questions being asked in that meeting.

Finally the Generation Z member strolls in with a clear confidence that the meeting will get an outcome that everyone is happy with. However, they question why the physical meeting was needed in the first place, as the solutions could have been found and agreed over Slack weeks ago, along with solutions to 5 other projects.

X gets frustrated at Y because they are constantly looking at their computer screen and Z because they’re huffing like the meeting is a waste of time. Y also gets frustrated at Z for disrespecting the fact everyone is physically together and X for not understanding why they are using their device. And Z can’t understand why X and Y are frustrated and gets frustrated with the apparent negativity to the creative solutions they are proposing from X because ‘it’s not the way we’ve done it before’.

So what might be driving these behaviours?

Beliefs and where we learn them

Bateson (1981) argued in his Logical Levels model that we have at our core our identity and the beliefs we hold true. These underpin the skills and capabilities that we use in our interactions with the world, and the behaviours we demonstrate.

Alongside this, current estimates from neuroscience suggest that approximately 6% of behaviour is transferred genetically, which would imply around 94% of human behaviour is learned from the environment around us, and our experiences within it.

So in the absence of experience, where do our beliefs, these generalisations that we hold close and true to defining who we are, come from?

Beliefs are installed when we have rapport with an individual, we unconsciously see them as an authority and we do not critically analyse the information they present us with. Our unconscious brains accept that information as ‘fact’, irrespective of whether it is true or not, and work to maintain balance to those facts unless challenged at a very deep level.

In reality, when we are faced with a new experience, be it at home when we are growing up, in school or in the workplace, we are open to hearing and accepting the beliefs of how we should behave and what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We generally have rapport with the more experienced people who guide us in those moments (parents, teachers, managers), we respect their authority and initially have little or no rationale for critically analysing the ‘facts’ we are told.

But this is where the conflict and subsequent frustrations in interpretations of behaviour can occur.

If we take the earlier scenario for example, the Generation X team member has had years to learn the importance of preparation, potentially having been unprepared for a meeting once that led to negative performance review. Therefore, they believe that anyone should prepare for a meeting to make sure of a positive outcome.

Gen Y has grown through the emergence of technology in the workplace and believes working in a more real-time fashion manages their time more effectively before the meeting. But they also respect the lesson they learnt from their first manager, who being from Gen X instilled the belief that presence at meetings is one of the fundamentals of collaboration.

And finally, you have Gen Z, who was given permission to explore the capabilities of technology with little negative challenge at home and in school, across multiple subject areas. Coupled with their belief that anything is possible, they hold this approach to life to be true, and having little experience of other approaches they behave in a way that demonstrates that belief.

When these differing beliefs are brought into the team environment, teams limit their potential to perform if time is not spent learning about what each team member values and believes.

Listen, embrace, learn and grow

With an increasingly complex work environment, one with multiple objectives, roles and responsibilities, it can seem difficult to find the time to appreciate each other, and what strengths each team member brings to the table.

However, by dedicating regular time to listen to what other people believe to be true, what they value in the world and where those ‘truths’ originate from, teams can start to positively understand why people behave in the way that they do.

If the information learnt is embraced from a position of curiousity – one that seeks to embrace the individual’s intentions that are often good at their heart – then team members can learn about each other’s values and why they do what they do.

And with this approach onboard, teams can learn to bridge the perceived gaps between them and build bonds that will enable them to achieve collective success now and into the future, irrespective of the generation each team member is from.

Graham

 

 

References

Abrams, J.B. and Von Frank, V. (2013) The Multigenerational workplace: Communicate, collaborate, and create community. United States: Corwin Publishers.

Bateson, G. (1981) Steps to an ecology of mind; collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. 10th edn. New York: Ballantine Books, 1972.

Elmore, T. (2015) Growing leaders Available at: https://growingleaders.com/blog/six-defining-characteristics-of-generation-z/ (Accessed: 7 February 2017).

Sears, A. (2005) A good book, in theory: A guide to theoretical thinking. Peterborough, Ont.: University of Toronto Press.

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Turning 30, Ronaldo vs. Messi and so much more…

Graham recently sat down for the Dimlightenment podcast to explore a variety of subjects affecting Millennials in today’s business and sporting world.

‘Turning 30’, ‘Spartan racing’, ‘the Drama Triangle‘, ‘Carl Jung’, ‘Ronaldo vs Messi’, ‘Doping in Sport’ and much more are discussed.

We hope you enjoy hearing the insights.

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If we avoid the Drama Triangle, could we become more?

Drama seems to be present more and more in today’s society, or at least it feels that way.

From the apparent disparity in behaviour between Millennials and the Generations that gave birth to them, to the expressions of frustration and displeasure at those who organise the Obstacle Course Races ran, those who provide the products and services we buy or towards posts on social media.

Some reports suggest the increase in social media tools has given the world a greater voice, with some choosing to use that voice maliciously by trolling the very people they have taken an interest in following.

Others argue the relentless pursuit of improvement kick-started by the Industrial and Technological Revolutions has driven the developed world to the point where anything less than perceived perfection is a disaster, placing blame firmly at the feet of others.

However one question I rarely hear being asked is “what is our part to play in fuelling each drama we encounter?”

Interactions between two people are a complex exchange of experiences, emotions and beliefs that lead to an observed behaviour by one person and then a reaction in the other, with the world around each individual shaping the person that presents themselves to their outer world.

These exchanges, whether face-to-face or virtually are a cauldron of opportunity for frustrations to be expressed, blame to be placed and negative comments to aimed at others, with little apparent consideration for the impact those behaviours could have.

In 1968, Stephen Karpman M.D. proposed the Drama Triangle as a way describing the connections between personal responsibility and power in interpersonal relationships. If we consider this in today’s world, the same principles still apply.

When an individual dislikes the views of someone else, they often take on the role of Victim (“Poor me, I feel helpless”), Rescuer (“Let me help you”) or Persecutor (“It’s all your fault, and I’m going to tell you so”) in their response to it. This gives the individual taking one of these positions a good feeling inside.

However, this often goes a long way to perpetuating and escalating the conflict, with those on the receiving end taking a position in their own drama triangle – persecuting, rescuing or feeling victim to the comments heard, and seeking rescue from someone else.

So what if we chose not to enter our Drama Triangle’s when we experience an interaction we have a negative response to, where we look to hear the positive intent of those sharing their opinion, or where we look into ourselves and identify the fears or insecurities we are protecting ourselves from sharing with the outer world?

In working with our colleagues we could learn more about each other, what drives us, what challenges us, and what leads us to taking the approach we do to solving a problem, all with the intent of collaboration, collective learning and growth.

When pursuing our own physical goals, we could stop getting distracted by those around us, and focus our conscious energies on improving our own performance, potentially achieving our goals sooner than expected or even higher goals.

And in our engagements on social media, instead of trolling someone for what they’ve posted (where that behaviour is Victim and Persecutor rolled into one or more statements), we could use that post as inspiration to focus on our areas to develop, to seek support to overcome our fears or simply appreciate the good in what someone has done.

So next time you are faced with a drama, consider if you are taking a position in the drama triangle and ask yourself ‘what could I do right now to enable us both to become more?’

Graham

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Take Time to Enjoy the Pour

So today I had this experience that really got me thinking about how we can give ourselves time to grow in these rapidly-accelerated times.

I’m in a Starbucks and order one of their pots of tea, mainly for the free refill you get which will come in handy whilst I decided how to put my thoughts into context. (Jasmine Pearls if you’re interested. For the post-workout antioxidants if you’re still interested)

I find a seat, get my laptop out, put my headphones in and begin to pour.

What took place next was where I found the spark that could be the key to so many behaviours we demonstrate and experience in society today.

Normally, the tea pours quickly, filling the cup without any hassle, restriction or impedance to the task I want to focus on. However today it seemed to take forever for the cup to be filled. I’m talking 15-20 seconds.

Logically this was down to the tea bag blocking the spout and restricting the flow. But what were more insightful were my reactions to the experience. I initially felt mildly irked, frustrated by the fact a tea bag was slowing me from getting onto the thing I wanted to do.

Now, one observation I frequently have is how quickly society moves around itself these days.

From drivers leaping their cars out in front at a roundabout, through the way systems and technology have evolved to make processes more efficient, to our constant thirst for information about our friends and the world as real-time as possible, we are always pursuing our goals and objectives at a pace that fails to give us time to fully appreciate the experience we and others have as we interact with the world, and the impact of those actions.

Mindfulness, mediation and reflective practice are all proven methods that help us retain balance and presence, allowing space to increase our self-awareness to our impact on the world, stay ‘in the moment’ and allow our creative, innovative minds to learn from our experiences for our futures.

But with life to live, chores to complete, responsibilities to fulfill and objectives to deliver both professionally and personally, dedicating and committing ourselves to take time to reflect can be demoted down our to-do lists, which is a shame when that reflection can give us so much more inner, and subsequently outer, peace.

Take time to enjoy the pour

Remembering we are the ultimate beholders of how we choose to behave, you can use the time it takes for the tea to pour to reflect – upon who you are, around how you are engaging with your world and check whether your behaviour is in-line with the person you want to be.

The answers in that moment might seem familiar or they might seem surprising. Whatever your answers, it is that moment to just think about ourselves, to think about our behaviour and the consequences of that behaviour where we can gain the insight to consider the ‘how’ more than the ‘what’, for longer than you may currently do.

So, next time you make a cup of tea or coffee, take that moment to reflect and savour the opportunity for growth (and rehydration) that you have just given yourself.

 

Graham

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