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Getting back on the horse

Last week there were a number of athletes deciding not to continue in their event at the Olympic Games citing mental health issues. Has the pandemic had an impact on this? Probably.

Some people have expressed surprise – surely people who are used to performing at the top level with lots of pressure wouldn’t suffer mental health issues due to ‘a falter during the vault competition’? Wouldn’t years of competitive spirt in front of millions of people kick in - grit your teeth and get on with it?

But it’s not always about pressure – top performers need the adrenalin that pressure produces to generate focused and directed performance. The same is true in achieving business goals.

However, when our brain encounters a new event (e.g. a slip in a run up, a wrong name spoken, a missed invite), it will search for past protocols or precedents to work out what the likely outcome will be and the associated risks. This relates back to our stone age fight/flight response to potential threats.

If our brain finds a similar, past situation, from which a negative outcome resulted (even when the cause and effect are not directly related), the internal conflict in our brain can unfortunately reinforce the perception that a negative outcome is to be expected. We may then enter a negative loop whenever we encounter these types of situations. The result, as we often hear in a sporting context – ‘they were beaten before they got on the pitch’.

Emotional Intelligence can help us to build emotional resilience to cope better with all sorts of adversity. The next time you encounter a business failure (before we get back on the horse) remember to objectively analyse what went wrong last time – what specifically are you going to do differently in the next similar situation to avoid the same outcome as before?

Sam Macbeth, 3rd August 2021

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