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Mindset vs. ability: career lessons from an endurance athlete

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My first memory of my cousin Shane is him catching his finger in the doorway of a photography studio on my communion day. He was 1 and I was 7. Absolute mayhem broke out. Fast forward 26 years and he is still stealing the spotlight, but for more remarkable reasons.

In April, Shane will cycle and run across America. It will take him 36 days with the goal of raising €250,000 for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland.

In 2019 Shane undertook a similar challenge, running 24 marathons in 24 days. I was part of the supporting crew. There were days he had to walk backwards down steps because his legs were in such agony. This got me thinking about the attitude and mindset needed to accomplish something so demanding.

He had to physically train to get his body to a certain level of fitness, but it was the power of his mind that kept him going each day.

From a professional perspective, there is a lot to be said about mindset versus ability.

As a recruiter, I often interview candidates who have great technical skills but the ones that impress me most are those with the right attitude. While skills can be developed and knowledge learned an innate sense of positivity and determination is harder to acquire. Yet it’s not impossible to learn.

The more I think about Shane’s endeavours, the more of a cross over I see between his athletic achievements and career success. It’s all about performance.

Here are some tips I’ve gained from Shane which can be applied to anyone looking to succeed and develop a more positive attitude.

Tips for success and developing a positive attitude at work

Have specific goals

People generally have a lot of desires, but very few have specific goals. Some good questions to ask yourself when setting any goal are:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?
  • Is it attainable – how can you make it happen? Will you need any support?
  • Is it worth working hard for? What will the reward be?
  • What date would you like to have completed your goal by?

For a goal to turn into a reality, it needs to be; specific, compelling and it needs to be achieved within a certain time frame. Your goal should also be realistic. You need to make consistent progress if you are to achieve your eventual goal.

Focus on the small things

Focus on getting the small things right rather than getting overwhelmed by the overall goal down the line. For example, if you’re working on a large project in work, take it section by section and delegate where you can. These small steps add up and are what will help you achieve your end goal.

Always back yourself up

It’s normal to experience self-doubt but it’s how you deal with it that matters. Are you backing yourself or are you putting yourself down? Being your own best support is crucial to success. If you struggle with confidence at work a professional mentor can be a great help.

Manage your time

We all have the same 168 hours in the week. The reason you are struggling to achieve your goals is probably because you are not prioritising the right things. Be strict with your time and allocate it correctly. For example, if you want to earn an extra qualification, you will have to dedicate an evening or two to achieve this.

Identify what is holding you back and deal with it

It’s easier to complain about things not working than facing them. Whether it’s a boss who micro-manages you and doesn’t allow you to lead your own projects or not having a skill, identify what’s blocking you and change it.

Ask for feedback and really listen to it. Quite often, the thing that is holding you back is yourself. Always be willing to make some small changes.

We may not all have the ability (or desire) to run across a continent but we can all adopt these little measures to be extraordinary in our own way.

No matter what profession you work in, if you have the right mindset and attitude, success seems to follow.

Interested in a new career challenge?

Get in touch, I’d be delighted to advise.

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