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Ben Hunt-Davis

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How to cut the noise, maintain focus and make the most of your ability


Olympic gold medallist Ben Hunt-Davis gives us a few tips on how to get the most of our day and think about the bigger picture at the same time.

Have you ever been looking to buy a new car? Or learned a new word? Do you suddenly start seeing it everywhere? This effect is caused by a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System and it helps us pick out relevant information from a sea of sensory experiences. By knowing exactly what it is you want to achieve your brain will be on your side to help you spot the relevant information to help you along the way. So use it to your advantage, be absolutely crystal clear about what it is you are trying to achieve.

Do you or your organisation have a Crazy goal? And by a Crazy goal, I don’t mean that it has to be huge and audacious, a Crazy goal just has to have meaning, it has to be something you’re really passionate about. My Crazy goal was to win an Olympic Gold medal. A Crazy goal laughs in the face of a SMART goal, it might not have any of those 5 characteristics (smart, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound), but it does generate one thing; EXCITEMENT! And maybe that’s what we’re missing in the workplace at the moment. Spend a little time daydreaming and articulating your Crazy goal – what is it that you’re really going for, what do you really want? Why? Relight that fire!

As exciting as having a Crazy goal is, it doesn’t necessarily deliver the goods, no matter how passionate you are about it. So, beneath the Crazy goal must be something that is measurable, what we refer to as a Concrete goal – it’s a quantifiable version of the Crazy goal. For example, our crew’s Concrete goal was to race 2000m in a time of five minutes and eighteen seconds – that was faster than World Record Pace so if we could achieve that, we were in with a very good chance of getting Gold. How does your Crazy goal translate into something that is measurable? Ask yourself, “if I achieve this will it mean that I will achieve my Crazy goal?”. If the answer is no, have another think about ‘how will I know when I have achieved my Crazy goal?’

Being crystal clear on your Crazy and Concrete goals will help deflect any unwanted noise that won’t take you towards them. You can break your Concrete goal down even further, into smaller goals and milestones. Is everything aligned? Are your daily behaviours and actions taking you in the same direction? We used to ask ourselves, simply ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ to help us know whether our daily actions were taking us towards our Gold medal. What is your question?

Finally, making the most of your ability; one thing that I learned through my sporting career is how to fail. That might sound odd, but every Olympic champion understands that to be successful, failure is inevitable, and that is true in all walks of life. We all know the saying ‘do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got’ – it reminds me of a fly bumping into the glass window relentlessly trying to do the same thing over and over again even though it doesn’t work! Sometimes you need to just try a new direction. So, believe there is a better way and experiment. Thomas Edison once replied to an interviewer asking how it felt to have failed 3000 times, ‘I never failed, I just found 3000 ways that didn’t work’.  He saw every failure as one step closer to reaching the final invention – the light bulb; pretty extreme, but a fantastic interpretation. What could you do differently today?

How do you cut the noise, maintain focus and make the most of your ability? Know what you’re trying to achieve and why, make sure all of your actions are aligned and don’t be afraid to try something new – if it doesn’t work, at least you know and can do something differently next time.

If you would like to work with Ben Hunt-Davis on his next open programme of ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ click here now


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