Once upon a time I was governed by a deep-seated drive and determination to achieve a dream - to become an Olympic Champion. For years my imagination played out every possible Olympic scenario. From the worst, missing Olympic selection, to the next worst of coming fourth, all the way to the ultimate; to win the gold medal. This started aged 17 when the Olympic dream seed was sown by my club rowing coach who, having spotted some talent in me, sat me down one day and told me that if I worked hard, I might one day row for Great Britain and maybe even go to the Olympic Games. It was unthinkable that 11 years later I would be making history to become the first British woman and second in history to win two Olympic medals in two different summer Olympic sports. From that sown seed grew a World Championship gold medal and Olympic silver medal in the sport of rowing, and two World Championship gold medals and an Olympic gold medal in the sport of track cycling.
Since retiring from international sport, I didn't think an emotional drive that had enabled my accomplishments, would ever absorb me again. But the day my baby boy was born and I became a mother, something even more powerful enveloped me. It's impossible to describe this overwhelming feeling, but every mother will know it. As a 17 year old I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve, the athlete I wanted to be. Again, similarly, I have a dream for the future, a vision of the mother I want to try to be and the life values I want to live by. The most important lesson I learnt in sport was don't be afraid to dream. In fact, creating and establishing that dream or vision is the first crucial step to actually achieving it.
I'm finding motherhood has many parallels with my sporting background. The most similar requirement being the amount of energy needed, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally! One way to nourish this is to develop the right mindset. As an athlete I expended an emotional drive alongside a calm, patient, logical and analytical approach, especially in the face of something new or different, or when I was first starting out learning each new sport. I didn't expect to be good straight away. I expected that it would take hard work and focus to make it happen. Not panicking but going with the flow was a useful trait of mine. As was being willing to be adaptable and being accepting of change. All mothers will recognise these as necessities within their everyday lives!
Tiredness, lack of energy, failure, stress and lack of down time (common challenges of an athlete and mother) can make it difficult to keep a long-lasting positive mindset. As an athlete I worked on 'brain training', programming my mind to switch modes in certain situations and be responsive in a more positive and helpful way. In order to win Olympic gold I had to live and breathe it as a 24hr way-of-life, keeping focus on everything I did to ensure it impacted positively on my athletic progression and performances. This is much like motherhood where energy and motivation needs to be elevated and positive round the clock!
Sometimes the enormity of the challenges you face can become overwhelming and it's easy to spiral down with negativity. Through my career, particularly when switching from rowing to cycling and also more recently when training for Ironman triathlon, I learnt that big things can be achieved if you focus on taking little steps of growth and progression. Also, it's hard to make big improvements in one area, so I used an 'incremental gains' philosophy - instead look to make small improvements in lots of different areas. All of these small improvements added together make a big gain, which is a much easier way to do it!
Overall, my principal method of motivation was to always focus on the dream I wanted and achieving that best possible end scenario I'd been imagining time and time again. That Olympic dream seed was sown to an ordinary teenage girl who believed she was nothing special. But ordinary people do achieve extra-ordinary things. And being a mother certainly doesn't have to stop you from achieving remarkable things! If you have a dream harness your positive energy to go live it!
I am also proud to be the ambassador for the Energizer® Positive Energy Mum campaign. Now you can get involved - Please visit www.facebook.com/EnergizerUK and vote from our shortlist for your winner.