What we can learn from the OLYMPICS

100m sprint track

The Olympics have been the focus of many of our lives over the last two weeks and there will be that “what do we do now” feeling when they finish. This incredible event began in 776BC in Olympia and was dedicated to the Olympian Gods. The Olympics is always full of outstanding success and distraught heartbreaking stories of failure. In effect, the Olympic Games are a metaphor for life, in that we can have these wonderful highs and devastating lows. The question is what can keep us going when times are tough?

Resilience may be one of the most important qualities that we can develop and nurture. Resilience is what makes an Olympic athlete deal with a loss or setback and come back to give it all they’ve got in the next event, just like Herman Maier. Whether you’re involved in sport, the corporate world, education or health, there will be days where you think it can’t get any worse. Too often, our perception is that these difficult days outnumber the good, and we start on a steady spiral downwards into misery and feeling sorry for ourselves. We forget just how much we have to be thankful for.

One fantastic mechanism to maintain an objective view is to monitor ourselves on a daily basis. This monitoring may be systematic where we track certain physiological variables such as sleep, levels of physical activity, fatigue levels and psychological status. Or it could be as simple as keeping a daily journal, recording your day. By keeping track of your life, you will often identify that life is not all that bad, and if it is, you can seek answers.

Incorporating strategies into our life to manage ourselves when we are not feeling very positive can make a real difference. It just seems that in these times, when we have so much and want for very little, we don’t have the most important things in life such as joy and happiness. In my experience, much of our unhappiness comes from the workplace. But is it the workplace or is it you? It is easier to change yourself than to change the workplace, so to deal with those difficult times focus on the following:

1. Sleep – make sure that you are getting sufficient quantity and quality of sleep.
2. Physical Activity – ensure you are physically active every day, even if it’s a simple 20 minute walk, as any increase will be positive.
3. Have a morning routine – start the day with meditation or simply taking time out for you.
4. Keep a daily journal.
5. Be the person you would like to meet.

By implementing some simple strategies like these, you can have a positive effect on your outlook, build your resilience and be better prepared to face life’s challenges.

What could have helped Malcolm Turnbull?

In Australia we have just had our national election, but a clear winner is yet to be announced. With the microscopic attention on our potential leaders, I wonder if the physiological and psychological performance of the candidates has been monitored as closely as the potential political outcome? I would suggest not.


The election campaign is just like training for match day. How you prepare along the way affects your overall performance. The immense stress on our political leaders by their parties and long hours on the campaign trail have a major effect on their sleep, diet and physical activity.  


Like any fatigued athlete, a fatigued politician will make mistakes. Just take a look at the commentary on Malcolm Turnbull’s election night speech.  If only his party realised how much fatigue can impact performance.


How was the Liberal leader sleeping throughout the 8 week campaign? Reduction of quantity and quality of sleep has been shown to have a negative relationship to cognitive performance and is even more reason why sleep should be monitored if you want to perform at your best.


Stress is also known to have a negative impact on cognition. Did anyone take the time to gauge the stress levels of Malcolm Turnbull and develop strategies to manage this?


Physical activity on the other hand, has a positive effect on how our mind operates and while Turnbull may have been on his feet all day, how much time did he actually devote to exercise? However, pushing yourself to exercise when you are already fatigued may have the opposite effect.


Having knowledge of the real time physiological and cognitive fatigue status of people can be used to predict potential issues and inform adjustments that can be made to ensure that the individual remains in their optimal performance zone.There is no doubt that the same analysis could have been used for Malcolm Turnbull to ensure his ability to perform was maximised.


As we await a final result, one thing is for certain, the new Prime Minister has a long road ahead of them, with constant high expectations on their performance. There is no doubt that an individual needs to be aware of their fatigue levels,and adjust their approach, if their full potential is to be maximised.