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Wednesday 15th April 2009
Keep everything in perspective

 Keep everything in perspective……..


We all have bad days – things go wrong at the office, someone cuts you up on the way home from work and life seems to be getting you down! So what? Your life is a fantastic path full of opportunity and possibility; this should make you smile every time you think about it and that should be regularly. What does a bad day really mean? You still have the ones you love, the friends you value and your future to look to for enjoyment and positivity.

Everything you do in life needs to be kept in perspective, both negative and positive. Don’t get carried away when things go well and likewise don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go your way. This is just as applicable on the sports field (where I have learned to develop my perspective on life) as in your business or office. Many of the things that we worry about or let upset us actually have little or no meaning; the things that do matter are far stronger and add love and happiness to our lives. 

Positivity is a difficult thing to embrace constantly throughout our lives, negativity being the easier option. When things go wrong we should look to learn the lessons from our mistakes but at the same time congratulate ourselves on the things we did well. We shouldn’t be afraid of doing this. Many of us would, if we made two mistakes in a day, focus on these rather than the twenty things we successfully. I certainly used to think like this, beating myself up over performances. I have realised that everyone makes mistakes and this is something to accept and learn from. Don’t be too hard on those around you or just as importantly, yourself. Focus on positive thoughts and images and focus on things you can influence rather than the images which lower your levels of confidence and make you feel down or low.

This sounds simple - believe me it isn’t. Over my eleven year career as a rugby player it took me seven years or so to develop this positive perspective but now I have and I believe in myself (this is a vital ingredient to getting the right perspective in your life), my life is much more fulfilled and I don’t get bothered by things that don’t have any lasting effect on me. My performances on the field, good or bad, don’t affect me as an individual off the field. I have the things that I really value in life to go back to – my wife, my family, my home and my dogs! These are the things that really matter in my life and my perspective on life now means that ‘rugby things’ such as losses and personal mistakes don’t affect me the way they have done in the past as I have a positive outlook on life.

As we go through life we need to realise that it’s acceptable to make mistakes, no one is perfect, the best players or most respected businessmen and women make them. These people just deal with mistakes in a pro-active way, learn from them and move on taking the positives from the negatives. Don’t allow mistakes to get you down, react to them by focussing on visions of you completing tasks well and understand that they are unlikely to affect the things that should mean the most to you – your family, friends and the life you have ahead of you. It isn’t easy but changing our perspective can have a profound affect on the way we approach life and what we take out of it.

Posted by: , on April 15th 2009 on 03:53pm0 Comments
Tuesday 03rd March 2009
Goal Setting

 Whatever you do in your life, everyone, and I do mean everyone, will benefit from setting goals. I spent the best part of six years of my career in professional sport ignoring goal-setting exercises but in the years since, they have played an important part in my life on and off the field.

99% of us want to ‘do something’ in life. You may want to develop a relationship or run your own business, perhaps become the best sales person in your company or reach a certain level of financial reward, but whatever it is, this is your goal. Everything and anything can be reached far easier by setting out your goals on paper and understanding that you need to work hard to get there. Too many of us think things in life should be and are easy, giving up at the first sign of things getting tough. The process of goal-setting should help when things do get hard though as they help you re-focus and mean you learn from errors or mistakes. However, the most important thing I have learnt is that your goals have to be the most important thing for YOU. If it isn’t then don’t bother making it your goal; as soon as things get tough you will give up on it.

When sitting down to plan your goals, think about what you want to achieve in your life from several different perspectives. What would you like to achieve in your career ? Are there things that you want to change in terms of your attitude ? What are your physical goals ? What would you like to achieve in relation to your family and friends ? Make them challenging but don’t be unrealistic – this can have detrimental effects. Write down your long term goals and then the short term which will form the path to achievement.

Long term goals should be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps so that there is a constant progression towards your target. As you complete these smaller steps, feel a sense of achievement in moving along the road to your end goal. This will develop your confidence and re-inforces your commitment to your target.

Steve Black coached me for several years here in Newcastle and he used to push us to follow the idea of the ’24 hour video’. Make sure that everything you do, every day, is the best you can do, making sure that if you watched the video back at the end of the day, you would be proud of what you were watching. I still think along these lines now and I think it can be a real help to people trying to achieve in life. By clearly focussing and doing the best you can do every day, you have a far better chance of reaching your short and long term goals. Businesses will benefit from employees achieving objectives more efficiently and effectively and individuals will then see the rewards that follow on.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to set out your goals. If you really think hard about what it is you want to achieve and then set out how you are going to get there your life will become more rewarding. When my career first started I was enjoying playing rugby and getting paid for it to concern myself with setting goals but for the last three or four years since I decided to make a concious effort, I feel like I have a more fulfilled life in which I achieve far more of the things I want to – why not give it a try yourself…….



Posted by: , on March 03rd 2009 on 08:28pm0 Comments
Tuesday 20th January 2009
Dealing with Pressure

 Dealing with Pressure


One of the things top athletes and rugby players have to deal with is the pressure that is placed upon them. Media, fans, friends, team mates, coaches and the athletes themselves can all have an effect on the levels of pressure on players. It is how they deal with this that is likely to have an impact on winning or losing.

Pressure comes mostly when players focus on the past or the future rather than the present. If you think about the outcome rather than the process or focus on previous mistakes and remember failures rather than using positive imagery to develop confidence and belief you are at a disadvantage straight away. Worrying about mistakes is more likely to help you make another one; it is not going to help you succeed in any way.

Failure is something we all have to deal with. The best players in the world have all, at some point in their careers, failed in some way. However, those who are successful in the sporting world and in the business world are not afraid to fail. Failure can teach more lessons than success and continual development is what we, as sportsmen and women, need to be able to succeed in the long term. Don’t think about what will happen when you lose, who us going to get dropped, whose fault is it going to be. Think from a positive perspective; we are going to win this game and I am going to make a valued contribution to the team. Then all you need to do is enjoy your game and do what you are good at, the reason you are playing in the team anyway.

What really happens if you lose? Nothing really. The important things in life are your family, your health and the happiness of you and those around you. Perspective has had a big impact on my career in the past few seasons – I simply go out every week looking to enjoy myself and do what I am good at. I don’t feel any pressure and I think I have performed far better because of this. If you do lose, you will get up again the next day and live to fight on. I only wish that learnt this perspective on my life sooner than I actually did.

Pressure is something that is talked about a great deal by coaches and media. Don’t listen is my advice. Who wants to know and who is going to benefit from thinking that they are under pressure? Try to view the game in the right way, think if the reasons why you started playing, what you are good at and your value to the team and also keep thinking to yourself that you play best when you are relaxed. By thinking relax, you will! Less tension and effort will help sprinters be faster and more powerful. You will have heard the commentators speak about 100 metre runners looking relaxed or tense in the shoulders. The winners and those that win medals are always the runners who are relaxed.

Decision-making can also be affected by the feeling of pressure. When players are under pressure, people act rashly, your pulse speeds up and decisions are influenced by it. Try to take some deep breaths, think positive thoughts and bring yourself back into the present where you are not thinking in the past (about previous failures) or in the future (about the outcome of the game). This may sound very matter of fact but you need to practice this to make sure you are able to do this when you need to.

People deal with pressure in different ways but you should really try and change your ways of dealing with it – don’t worry at all. Think of the things that matter in life, what really matters to you and you will find when things are in the correct perspective that one loss is not the end of the world. 

Posted by: , on January 20th 2009 on 04:45pm0 Comments
Tuesday 13th January 2009
The importance of Confidence

 Confidence is one of the key ingredients in professional sport but is also just as important in recreational sport. We have all heard TV pundits and commentators speak of teams who are low on confidence and each one of us could probably name 5 teams in different sports across the country now, who would be viewed as being low on confidence. In this short blog I am going to write about a couple of ways to build confidence and the effect it can have on your performance as an individual or team.

If you ask most people where confidence comes from, many will say that it comes after a performance has taken place. For example, you may have had a great game for your team and your skills and technical ability have allowed you to stand out as having performed well. However, this assumes that we all start from a point of zero or low confidence. Why can we not build confidence day by day in our life and throughout our training? We don’t have to wait until we perform to see where we are in terms of our confidence, why not start the building process now?

Confidence comes from the feeling of knowing that you are physically and mentally prepared for the game you are about to take part in. This can be true for any game and includes those outside sport too. If you feel you have prepared properly for something you can relax, trust yourself and your ability and perform positively.  When you go into a game and don’t worry about the outcome or the problems you are going to be posed throughout, you can just play and believe in yourself. Great athletes say that their confidence comes from the feeling that they know they are ready and prepared. The same applies for me in my professional rugby career, not that I am a one of the great athletes! During my week I like to make sure that not only have I completed all of the training that we have been set by the coaches and my fitness trainers but also I like to know that I have also spent time working on the skills I am going to have to use at the weekend – passing, tackling, kicking and catching.

Being prepared is linked to the next point I want to make about confidence. Completing simple goal setting exercises which target the short, medium and long term help build confidence. I set short term goals for myself weekly in which I look at the number of passes, kicks, catches and tackles I want to practice. I work at these hard during the week focussing on technique and ensure I am happy with the way I am performing them.  My medium term goals are designed to be reached within a couple of weeks to a month and my long-term goals look at 6 months onwards. By achieving goals, especially short-term goals, my confidence grows, as I know I am doing all I can do to reach the level of performance I am after. This is one of the most important parts of the week in my view. If I am happy with my skills and happy that I am in the best condition I can be in to play the game at the weekend I can not ask for anymore and know I have given it my best shot, which is all anyone can ever ask. 

One of the main problems with individuals setting goals comes when they weight them in favour of the skills they enjoy practicing or are good at. Your better skills should be practiced at some point but spend more time developing your weaker skills so your confidence in them and your ability to carry them out grows. Confidence grows through targeting weaknesses.  

Everyone at some point will go through a period where they are low in confidence. You don’t get a choice I this – it will or has happened to you. My advice on this - don’t let anyone know! If the opposition know then they have already won the mental side of the battle and if your team-mates know then they won’t trust you or your skills as much as they would when you are fully confident. They won’t say this and it is most likely to be in their subconscious but they will feel this way.

Walk tall with you head held high and you will give people the feeling that you are full of confidence. This will also help you to get out of your period of low confidence as your body is acting the way it would when you are feeling good and strong mentally.

I could write so much more on confidence and the importance it has and how you can work at it but I hope this short blog has given some ideas about how to develop it and help it grow within you and your team. I will be writing about other aspects of the mental side of the game and sport in general soon so keep checking here to find out more…..


Posted by: , on January 13th 2009 on 08:13am0 Comments
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