In both sport and business, our minds are full of amazing and emotional memories where we’ve delivered against our game plans: products are launched, projects completed, trophies won, and medals received.

Our attention is drawn to the action and applause. It’s compelling to experience the height of competition and the performances that represent the ‘thick of the action’.

But if we only look at the medals and results, we could be forgiven for believing that competitive instinct is only applied to these key moments. The reality is that it’s something that is present throughout every step of training – from conception to final performance.

Given the challenges we’ve faced in 2020, many of us will have thought about giving up. If your goals have vanished or your motivation is waning, it’s never been more important to hone your competitive instincts. By doing so, it will help you to start winning the competitions that really matter; health, happiness and sustainability.

Focus, preparation and dealing with the unknown

Making sure your competitive instincts are focused on all the right areas is an important step to take right now.

Woman looking focused and determined while doing sports on a boardwalk near a city, skyline, active, sport, lifestyle, mindset, adidas, female, athlete
You can still keep your focus even when the finish line keeps moving.

More than ever, winning the competition of preparing better than anyone you know, or better than you’ve ever prepared before, is key. The increased uncertainty in the world around us means it’s critically important to prepare our minds and bodies to be fully ‘fit for purpose’, one day at a time, so that we step into our everyday performance with a composure and focus that allows us to feel as in control and confident as possible.

You’ll need to have the right building blocks in place, with deep self-confidence derived from everything you’ve learned about yourself throughout your career and an increased self-acceptance of your personality. With these two things you can start to build a solid foundation for the relationship you have with yourself.

Add to this a new approach to setting both targets that account for desired successes and defining the failures you want to avoid. You’ll soon find your mind uncluttered and that you’re ready to focus on your daily efforts, making the most of your talents with greater efficiency and self-care in mind.

This much more self-compassionate preparation leads to an enhanced sense of control and confidence, which is essential in a world where the rule book has been ripped up and what was familiar to us has been replaced with uncertainty.

Recovering for competitive advantage

Competition is more than superb preparation and amazing execution. There is also a competition that most forget: the competition to rest, replenish and be fully confident to go again.

Woman wearing adidas shoes and adidas apparel sitting with head between legs resting and recovering after sports, tired, active, sport, lifestyle, mindset, GamePlan A
Staying at the top of your game also means taking time out to rest.

At my first two Olympic Games, one of my jobs as part of the support team was to get ice jackets to our athletes as quickly as possible after they’d crossed the finish line. Who could recover quickest and most effectively before the next race that would follow?

Along with the ice jackets, athletes were delivered their post-race drinks and snacks to begin the refueling and rehydration alongside the rapid cooling of their bodies. Where competitive advantage could be gained for the next performance, it was sought.

In addition to the routine of post-race recovery tactics were well rehearsed debriefs and action planning meetings. This phase of competition is all about supporting the mind and body to be as recovered as possible so that when it’s time to go again, there’s very little sense of aggregated fatigue or unhelpful thinking.

Right now, it seems that withdrawing from the race to burnout and entering into a competition of the world’s best ‘recoverers’, is the right move to make.

Even though we don’t need quite the range of recovery tactics employed by elite athletes, we can all certainly benefit from developing our own rest and recovery routines and committing to working as hard (or harder) at recovery as we do at getting things off our to-do list.

Tuning into what matters most

For most people, when the rules change, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters from a personal pride and satisfaction perspective. If we’re all going to become excellent at competing on preparation, performance AND recovery, then it really helps to tune into what really matters to you in terms of your health, happiness and reputation (with yourself, your family and your work colleagues).

Man wearing yellow t-shirt smiling while hugging a blonde woman, teamwork. support, friendship, happiness, sports, sportsmanship, adidas
Don't lose sight of what's really important to you.

While the world is changing around us, it’s a great time to get back to making sure we’re giving ourselves the best game plan we can that’s going to deliver great performance, whilst keeping us healthy, happy and ready for the long game.

If that feels like something you want to work on, then please take a look at our ‘Playing from the Heart’ program, where we’re helping people go about achieving just that.


Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.
Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.

Thanks for your comment

You will receive an email to approve your comment. It will only appear after your confirmation.


Oh no! An unexpected error occurred.

Try again
by tim bassford 23.09.2020
Brilliant article Chris. Love the importance you place on post race recovery and embedding a real focus on true rest after extreme focus. I find it’s a difficult lesson to maintain.
by Chris Shambrook tim bassford 23.09.2020
Hey Tim. Glad you found it useful.

Worry less about maintaining and think more about being curious about how long you can keep the focus going for. If you forget one day, then see how quick you want to get back onto the recovery focused approach.

Enjoy finding out!
by Harshit 26.09.2020
Great article
by Eric Sayama 30.09.2020
Just the article I needed to read during these challenging times. These encouraging and motivational tips are enlightening as I'm currently in search of a job and have fallen victim to a huge RIF (Reduction in Force) as a result of the pandemic.

Greatest of luck to those who are on the same 'competition' as I am!
by Chris Eric Sayama 30.09.2020
Hey Eric

All the best with the job search and if you're able to join the course, then it might be a great time to put an excellent foundation in place for the next role that follows.

The tips are powerful for our current challenges, but they're all based on seeking competitive advantage even when the conditions are at there most challenging.

Where there's high ambition, it's critical to commit to self-care first, whether the conditions are huge head wind or tail wind!

Best of luck with the search and creating the next set of personal challenges.