What I learned from the Olympics
The Olympics is a special occasion for many: The best of the best arrive on the world stage to compete at the highest levels. When athletes operate at the highest levels, they are more likely to encounter immense pressure.
A few days ago, I watched CBC interview a Canadian Olympic rowing coach that talked about dealing with that immense pressure. He mentioned in the interview what he learned from his fellow coach in soccer: see adversity as opportunity.
Seeing Adversity as Opportunity
When I heard the phrase, “see adversity as opportunity” I interpreted as how to manage your energy. That is, any given moment can be seen as low-octane fuel (adversity) or high-octane fuel (opportunity). This energy isn’t derived from the food we eat, but from our mind.
Characteristics of low-octane energy:
• You feel anxiety
• You are focused on the obstacle (the anxiety) rather than the goal
• You feel tense or you may feel paralyzed
• You see more limitations than possibilities
Characteristics of high-octane energy:
• You feel nervous excitement—yet it fuels you towards your goal
• You are focused on delivering a high-quality performance or product
• You feel relaxed and appear approachable, your natural self emerges
• You see more possibilities rather than limitations
One area where people can view as low or high-octane energy is Toastmasters. For example, a new member may give an impromptu two-minute talk known as Table Topics with low-octane energy. By focusing on this low energy a member may be tempted to talk about the first idea that comes to their mind or they may be focused on how they are showing up and be afraid to say anything. Another member with more experience may approach Table Topics with high-octane energy—albeit still with some slight nervousness. While both complete their talks, one member is probably enjoying the process more than the other person and delivering more value to the audience.
I remember one time I presented at another Toastmasters club. Despite speaking for many years, I looked down and noticed that my left knee was shaking. (Thank goodness I was wearing pants so no one can see.) Instead of allowing myself to switch to low-octane energy, I simply observed the shaking knee and remarked to myself, “Interesting, my knee is shaking, I never had that happen before.” I resisted switching to low-octane energy and focused on delivering a high-quality presentation.
Using the Pomodoro Technique
Here’s another tactic to deal with low-octane energy (aka tasks that I don’t like to do): use the Pomodoro Technique. That is, setting a timer for 25 minutes and focusing on the specific task for a short amount of time.
To ensure I used high-octane energy, my friend and I formed this group: Twice a week, we meet for about 90 minutes. During the 90 minutes we do three, pomodoro sprints via Zoom. We declare our goals for those 25 minutes, set the timer, and work on the task at hand. Each 30 minute segment consists of the following:
• 25 minutes of productivity on a specific goal/task, leaving the camera on and microphones on mute
• 5 minutes where you stop your task and discuss with your colleague the following:
o Debrief: Did you complete your task? What worked and what didn’t work?
o Stretch: Stretch yours arms or roll your shoulders
o Reset: Declare a new goal for the next 30 minutes
NOTE: Avoid judging yourself or others—find ways to support each other or yourself instead.
By doing these sprints together, we leave with a sense of accomplishment and support. Shifting your perspective is a driving force in how you choose between low-octane or high-octane energy.
The next time you approach a task notice what type of energy is being used. If you see yourself using low-octane energy, ask yourself, “What can I do to switch to high-octane energy in a way that is more supportive for myself?” Don’t worry if nothing comes to mind: sometimes experience and repetition is needed to shift away from low-octane energy. Perhaps you may need someone in your corner to help you shift away from that low-octane energy (hint: use the pomodoro sprint).
Accessing your high-octane energy
If you are looking to do a pomodoro sprint together, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and perhaps we can work together. Alternatively, I can pair you with someone in my network. Here’s to more high-octane moments for our Olympians and for ourselves.