This closing keynote presentation for the Australian and New Zealand Finance Aid Administrator’s (ANZFAA) 2011 Conference focused on using Olympic stories, mental toughness and neuroscience to support participants to reflect on and deal with change (ANZFAA Conference).
Beginning with the story of Anna Meares’ journey to the 2004 Olympics, the key learning was that high-performance athletes don’t like to change – they train for consistency, routine and habit in order to achieve a peak performance state and be in the “zone”. 9 months to the Olympics Anna had to have a gear change in order to be ahead of the rest. The time to beat was 34.1 and in training, her gear change was halving her speed, yet her coach knew that she needed to master this change in order to beat the time.
The natural reaction to change is uncertainty, sometimes anger and frustration (particularly when the operational processes are mastered and the experience of doing is smooth, familiar and easy. When people are in the state of smooth, familiar and easy, change represents a threat, discomfort, clunkiness. This is where the now versus future perspective is critical. To be future-successful, people need to focus on the future state and experience which will be even more smooth, more familiar, easier, faster, etc. and not allow the “now” learning state (clunky, uncomfortable) to distract them from their potential.
Successful change is about focusing on the big picture, the “What” and the “Why” (using mental toughness and mindfulness strategies), and then systematising the how through the use of technical and operational strategies.