I love the Olympics, I always have from an early age - Winter, Summer, I don't care I just love seeing people do things that to most of us look impossible.
However, what I love above everything else is the GB cycling team, they are phenomenal. Every one of them won a medal at Rio and lets no gloat about the amount of Golds we won in the Velodrome.
I watch every interview I can, I have watched documentaries and read nearly everything I have been able to get my hands on. The GB rowers come a close second, but cycling is just a wee bit more exciting with crashes and people falling off.
For three Olympic cycles now, Team Great Britain have delivered and continue to dominate and their mindset fascinates me. Yes, the sport is well funded, yes they have the best coaches, etc., but what these cyclists really have is a mindset edge over their competitors that we could all do with a bit more of.
So what have I learnt from them this year that I will be applying in my own life?
1. Race against your own targets.
The final of the women's team sprint race was fascinating to watch. The US team got ahead very quickly and for a few laps we looked behind. But there was no panic, no mad rush, they just kept their cool. While the rest of the country was panicking, Chris Hoy who was commentating wasn't. He was looking at the coach, he indicated that the coach had told them on one lap they were behind schedule with some kind of hand gesture and within a couple of laps he indicated to them they were on schedule. However, this schedule wasn't in line with what the other team was doing; it was in line with the target they have set themselves to beat the world record. The rest is history; they beat the record and won.
What I found fascinating as I watched was,
1. How the only thing the team were racing was the target they set themselves.
2. Whatever the other team did they just stayed on their own course, ran their own race and knew if they stayed on target they would get the win.
I began to wonder how different my life would be if I stopped worrying what others were doing and achieving, set a very firm target and only measured myself against that. We are so often knocked of course by the things that others say we should do, or the success or failure of another or what a competitor has achieved.
What if you just set yourself a target focused on our own target and didn't care what everyone else was doing? This feels very freeing to me.
2. Marginal Gains
This is something I have lived by a long time, something I call 1% actions and a concept also discussed in the book Will it make the Boat go Faster? The concept is this.
a. You only change or do something if it helps you achieve your goal and that is the only reason; if what you are thinking of doing will not make the boat faster than you simply don't do it. I think that this is such an easy concept to focus on and often, when I am reaching for the second glass of wine on a school night I will ask myself, will this make the boat go faster? The answer is always very clear and it helps me make decisions that otherwise I may not.
b. Each day, what you work towards are tiny steps forward. You don't look to make huge leaps, just marginal gains. You don't work on getting your time down by a second; you work at getting it down by 100th of a second. I think we are often paralysed by thinking we need to make such big steps forward and in schools where I work, I often see young people set up to fail.
For example, they will set targets like concentrating in class. Apart from the fact that this means nothing, it is too big a step. If all you are doing at present is messing around, then being quiet for the first 3 minutes would be a more realistic target and would be a marginal gain. The interesting thing about these marginal gains is that they set us up to win. If I think I have to run a whole second faster and I fail to do that, I feel like a failure. If I set myself a target to be faster by 100th of a second I am more likely to achieve and be spurred forward. It is such a simple concept, yet one so often overlooked.
So, thank you Olympians for reminding me of two of my favourite techniques and for the next four years I will be focussing on my own targets, not what others are doing, the marginal gains I am making and only doing things that make my boat go faster.
There is a great video on Marginal Gains here.
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