When Goalposts Shift – Adapting to the Changing World Around Us
For Olympians and businesses alike, when the goalposts move it will most likely have an impact on our focus and performance. Here’s how you can stay on track and adapt to change, even in the most challenging of times.
We’re all on our established performance paths: daily and weekly patterns, monthly meetings, 90-day plays, quarterly rhythms, annual business rituals. All these things are built on familiarity, predictability and a sense of control and experience.
So, when the game changes in a way that no one had predicted, our sense of control and familiarity disappears, and we have little direct experience to draw upon to help us perform in the new conditions. Whether it’s the majority of people in the commercial world, or the Olympians responding to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, the ability to adapt to change and respond to the new schedules and rules of the game becomes an essential performance ingredient.
How are you feeling about how well you’ve reacted and adapted so far? How satisfied are you with the responses you’ve put in place and how you’ve upgraded your outlook?
For the athletes having to adjust to a new Olympic timetable, there are going to be some important mindset shifts to make. Those who manage the immediate and medium-term response best will be putting themselves in a great position to make the most of the unexpected timetable change. How they achieve this is probably something we can all benefit from when it comes to adapting to our own unique challenges in the brave new world we’re all facing into.
Here are some of the simple (but not always easy) steps that can be taken to ease the transition:
1. Accept the disappointment and frustration
It’s only natural in a situation where the game has changed significantly for you to have an emotional response. So, be ready to notice and accept the emotions you have, without feeling the need to label them as good or bad. Simply know they will be present and expect them to lessen with time as you begin to work through the other steps.
2. Focus on self-care and self-compassion
In a period of significant change where existing plans, investments, hopes and expectations have suddenly been made redundant, it’s critical to focus on looking after yourself. Mental and physical health is always important, but when the game changes significantly these things become even more important.
“...be kind to yourself, realise your responses are being shared by many people like you and take time for daily moments of stillness and calm...”
A daily focus on self-compassion is probably the most important commitment you can make to yourself in the first few weeks of adjustment. So, be kind to yourself, realise your responses are being shared by many people like you and take time for daily moments of stillness and calm so you stay grounded and in tune with how you’re reacting.
Taking this second step consistently will provide you with a great foundation from which to employ numbers three and four.
3. Reset expectations from a foundation of strength
For the Olympians, they’re having to adjust to the new timetable of events and the implications this has on their qualification, training, career and life outside of their sport.
In the commercial world, everyone is having to adjust to new targets for 2020 and in many cases a whole new mindset of surviving rather than thriving.
Whatever the refocusing that is required, the immediate and future plan needs to be built from a position of strength and that’s done by asking and answering some simple questions:
- Which strengths of mine that have always contributed to my previous successes are still relevant and need to be maintained at the forefront of my performance?
- Which approaches have always allowed me to adapt and learn best in the past and how do I make sure I use my ability to learn and grow to the best effect in the current situation?
- Who are the key people around me who I know will help me to maintain my focus on the right steps being taken with maximum confidence?
Once you’ve got answers to these questions, you can start resetting your sights on a new picture of success for the next month, quarter, and year ahead. For most of us though, the focus is going to be about staying in the here and now for a good few weeks while we consolidate our strengths and become used to how they’re of most benefit to us, one day at a time.
4. Maintain the personal best focus
Finally, whatever the forward plan and targets to aim for look like, now is a time, like never before, when the performance focus serves us most strongly.
When we can’t look to the scoreboard with confidence, or we can’t see a finish line in front of us, the focus is best placed on building a daily mission to find out how well you can perform and to adapt to changes around you.
“If we’re constantly focused on raising our personal best, one day at a time, we begin to build a mini track record of competence.”
Each day begins with the thought of “I wonder how well I can use my strengths today to put in a valuable performance?” The day then unfolds with ongoing attempts to answer that question as positively as possible. Then the day finishes with a reflection upon those moments or achievements that have given a sense of pride and progress.
If we’re constantly focused on raising our personal best (in these conditions), one day at a time, we begin to build a mini track record of competence. We feel a little more in control of doing the right things each day. And where we’re able to share our progress with the people who are supporting us or collaborating with us, then we really begin to change the story. From looking back and thinking about what could have been, or how much we’ve lost, we’re slowly able to regain a foothold and begin to look forward.
These four steps aren’t easy, but they’re the foundations of discipline that we know would have been at the core of successful people in 2020 had the game not changed around us. Now the game has changed, these common-sense steps become ever more important. In time, if we follow them with conviction, we’ll thank ourselves for reacting as it will help us in absolutely the right way for our long-term health and success.