How can you be a winner with mindfulness?
I attended the Mindful Living Show in London in the summer of 2017 and discovered how!
The C2 Canoe Slalom is a whitewater challenge that looks a million miles from a mindfully meditating Buddhist monk! Yet both require mental stamina and intense focus.
Stott and Warriner spoke about how a mindful approach became an integral part of training for, and winning, this Olympic sport. These days Stott shares his experience of mindfulness in schools and inspires people of all ages.
He debunks the myths that continue to dominate in sport generally
The myth that winning is everything
If you don’t win are you a loser? It’s a one in a 66 million chance of attaining an Olympic Gold Medal – therefore a lot of athletes have to be content with never winning!
Just as every child in school strives to do their best. Participation, team-play, love of learning, curiosity and imagination are some of the skills a child develops. Effort and attitude are key. Outcomes vary. And everyone is a winner with mindfulness!
Child, adult, sportsperson, politician, parent – what kind of person do you want to be, whatever you do? Whatever the outcome – how do you treat people on the experience of your life? A mindful way is so much more than the results.
The myth that there is a secret formula to sporting success
Everyone seems to be searching for the secret to success, to life, to the big win. The reality is that your inner response to the circumstances you find yourself in are key.
A mindful approach enables an athlete to own the part they play in their sport. It’s a move away from the blame game towards other team players, the boss, the coach etc. It’s more of a personal journey of self-growth and self-responsibility.
And so this applies for us all. Whatever goals we aspire to, big and little, they are achievable with mindful small steps.
Whatever life domain we are in – this is about being present for it. At home, work and in relationships, success is about flourishing. With a mindful approach there is the chance to grow and be self-responsible.
The myth that champions and sportspeople never have negative thoughts
Just like any human, an elite sportsperson experiences a range of thoughts and emotions. To become a success doesn’t mean difficult thoughts are eliminated.
Mindfulness and meditation have been important skills for Stott as he address such issues. He experienced injuries and disappointments along the way. These kind of experiences always come with a range of emotions and difficult thoughts.
For anyone, these can vary from self-judgment, wanting to give up, wondering if all the hard training is worth it, to feeling bad about yourself or angry towards others.
It is possible to learn to accept these thoughts when they arise and become less entrenched in them. How else could elite athletes get through the months of training? And how do they find the motivation to get back up after injury? It is all directly related to a healthy mental state.
Sportspeople are not superhuman, despite their incredible sporting efforts and achievements. They have found ways to manage the mental demands more effectively. Yet this is no small feat!
It’s a reminder for children and adults alike, that a normal part of being human is to have thoughts and feelings. They can be challenging and difficult.
Welcome to the human race! You become a winner simply by acknowledging this fact. A mindful approach gives you the skills to face your challenges and pick yourself up even after the worst of times.
The myth that rivals are enemies
Traditionally a sportsperson is taught to thrive amidst the conflict that can escalate towards rivals. It can lead to a constant feeling of being threatened, resulting in a life of anxiety and pressure.
Yet, if you switch this around, Stott points out that you can see rivals as a positive stimulus. Rivals can give you the incentive to help you keep training well. They can even provide you with a great learning resource if you can be genuinely open towards them.
This provides another reminder for children and young adults; great lessons can be learned from unexpected places. It’s not just heroes who provide inspiration. By remaining open-minded towards others, you never know what you might learn!
The skill of being mindful EVERY day
Stott pointed out that his mindful practice is an on-going skill to remember every day. It’s a daily choice. These daily choices include:
- Always do your best: this aligns with myth number one that winning is everything.
- Respond like a champion: especially important when things don’t go as planned.
- Nobody knows the future. It’s impossible to know. Choose your own way to work through each day!
Stott is a highly successful sportsman who has reached the pinnacle of a sports career. He knows how mindfulness can be applied to your dreams and aspirations.
‘Mindfulness is the soil, and growth comes from that.’
It was great to hear that Etienne Stott has a daily meditation practice, and apps like Headspace got him started. These days, he is passionate about sharing what he has learned. He combines mindfulness in everyday life with regular small doses of daily meditation. It’s not a soft option – it’s the way of an Olympic Gold Medal winner!
I came away thinking what a great inspiration Stott is for children and young adults. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can be a winner with mindfulness!
Etienne Stott MBE won his 2012 Olympic Gold Medal with his crewmate Tim Baillie for the C2 Canoe Slalom.
Katie Warriner, Mental Skills Coach for Team GB.
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Coach