Nearly 80 men interviewed now across all disciplines, sports and roles. Everyone an individual with unique traits and gifts. Yet one of the most commonly spoken about cause of anxiety is racing thoughts.
When we really take a moment and sharpen our awareness on our inner experience, we realise just how much noise is going on within our head. Our racing thoughts are relentless, and when left unattended become a freight train of anxiety that’s out of control. As I watch my mind in uncontrolled action, I am shocked and embarrassed at the thoughts that come up about the people, places and situations in my life.
Our racing thoughts are fast-paced and seem to come quickly out of nowhere. At their most intense we can find them hard to shut off as we repetitively think about a problem in our life. This worst-case thinking can be about an upcoming event, something we have said or what others will think of us. It can even be our own critical analysis of ourselves, which in my experience...
Let’s get right down to the heart of the matter.
I’m writing this based on a couple of assumptions that I have about you.
Three, to be precise.
The first assumption is that you are a senior level performance practitioner of some kind; a performance coach, a physiotherapist, a sport/technical coach, a performance analyst, head of performance, performance director... in short, performance support staff.
The second assumption I have about you is that you are highly driven to create a performance impact with the athletes or teams you support.
I say that on purpose ‘highly driven to create a performance impact’ because I want to stress that...
Your default driver is to do better and be better and at some point in time you’ve forgotten in that process what you actually like doing in life outside of sport. You literally live to work.
The shine and tracksuit have been such powerful distractions that you now feel alone and...
So far these articles have focussed on highlighting the common problems senior performance staff are facing with regards to high performance sport and the inner conflict deep within themselves.
Sharing these common problems has been received by many as a relief to hear that others within the world of performance sport are feeling very similar emotions. One piece of feedback has even been to say:
"These articles are giving me words to what I couldn't describe before."
I feel it's just as important to highlight what men in sport are asking for with regards to support and the practical tools to help them liberate themselves from the situations that are guiding their unhappiness.
"I want to learn about reflection and how to do it properly, and having a peer network to talk to confidentially to reflect and share the struggles and experience."
"How to take steps to acknowledge and respond to my feelings rather than react and control me."
"I want a clearer understanding...
Many men I have spoken with have suffered at some point with getting lost in the demands of their career, which has resulted in them losing sight of what's truly important to them.
Certainly in my own life the reason I lost sight of what was important to me was because I got caught up in the drama of life. Maybe you resonate with this - the drama is when we fall into the trap of having a problem orientation mindset and react to the anxiety that arises when we focus on what we don’t want or don’t like.
"I limit my own opportunity of enjoying other aspects of my life away from work because I'm always focused at the things that frustrate me."
We often revert to some common assumptions that perpetuate our situation:
Do you ever consider and question what blueprint you have within you that governs the type of man you show up as on a daily basis?
Or does your blueprint run in the background whilst quietly influencing your actions each day?
"As a man I feel like I've had to sort my own problems out and self soothe, I can't talk to anyone about it as the roles I take on include provider and protector. If ever I feel like speaking up it's such a brief moment. If there isn't anybody there that isn't sympathetic then I'm just going to have to expect not a great reception or just shut up shop."
As I'm now learning as a parent to my 4 year old, everything I do both verbal and non-verbal is being taken in by her and laid down as her blueprint for how to be in this world. My wife and I are absolutely doing our best in any given moment, and we also realise that we are fallible human beings still finding our own way in life. So I have to accept Gabor Maté's theory that everyone will...
In this series so far you've seen some of the results from my research looking into what's truly going on for men in high performance sport. These men inhabit roles including practitioners, performance coaches, sport scientists, performance directors, sports coaches, head of performance and head of academic programs. You've learnt how highly successful men that have achieved a great deal within high performance sport and academia are quietly suffering to maintain the perception of being successful and happy. This of course was my reality as well and one of the main reasons I left my career in sport to do what I do now.
This research has brought up some key themes shared by many of the 50 men I've spoken with so far, including:
This process is still...
Every man I have spoken with in this journey so far is considered highly successful in the world of high performance sport and academia. With that level of achievement comes a perceived expectation to keep delivering in their career and to be happy doing it. And if they don't deliver it's their own fault:
"I perceived not achieving as a failure which falls all on me because I have the prerequisite tools to achieve those things. I've felt pressure to achieve the markers of what people perceive as me being really good at... so I was inevitably going to fail which drove me into a hole."
There is an assumption that happiness comes with success. Personally I fell head first into that trap within my career and was baffled at why the shine of each position I had began to wear off after a while. This plagued me for much of my life, up until I was 36 years old. I'd assume blame on the people, the environments and the organisations for being the cause of my frustrations.
I recall the time...
One of the areas I have found profoundly moving in this research journey so far, has been the honesty of the men I have spoken with. I am grateful to have heard the deeper layers of what's really going on. And this is from men who in the past I would have been intimidated by because of their outwardly vast knowledge, experience and success. But as you'll see in this weeks newsletter reflections, many of these men have limited space or feel isolated to really open up and talk about how they feel or what's truly going on for them in their life.
I resonate with this immensely and recall the time I was at my first team meeting when I worked at the English Institute of Sport. I was asked to introduce myself and back then I was paralysed by anxiety in situations like that. For some reason I began describing the loss of my father at 16yrs and then made a quick segue into my academic "achievements" and my previous role at Fulham F.C.
I remember cringing at myself for exposing that...
I have been humbled by the confidential conversations and connections I've gained so far from over 40 men working in high performance sports. This has included performance practitioners, coaches, performance directors, head of science and Olympic medal winning athletes.
On paper all are considered highly successful and are in experienced and senior positions many people are chasing - they've made it! Yet when they are allowed to open up in a safe and private space, a different story shines through. There are many consistent themes of a deeper unhappiness and I aim to share a few of them in this article. There is also a starting action step at the end for you to take, if any of this resonates with you.
The most common feeling these men have expressed is one of being unfulfilled. It's not because they don't enjoy their role. Many I've spoken to do enjoy their work and have "achieved" success with their athletes. But that success has just highlighted a...
Despite the self-improvement market being estimated to grow to $13.2 billion by 2022, most people already know what they need to do to improve their lives.
Virtually everyday we know we have at least one thing we need to do to make our life better.
That could be to make changes in how to balance finding more peace, connection and time for your loved ones - whilst also - putting in the work to start something new.
Rather than feeling you need to prove yourself and make a success enough to allow yourself to worry less about time and money.
It could be Richard you’re tired of feeling like you go above and beyond your role and are often patronised and condescended to making you doubt your abilities.
Instead you want to wake up wanting to do something good rather than drowning under the expectations of others.
Or it could be to work closer to who you feel you are, with less inner conflict, which in turn will improve your sense of wellbeing and increase the energy you...