Personal bests and PB’s – what are you striving for?

The past two and a bit weeks have been exciting, exhilarating, tearful, stressful and most of all extremely lacking in the sleep department. You may recognise these things in yourself if you have been following the journey of our Australian athletes (or your own country) achieving their personal bests in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

I love watching all the sports but for me some of them are extra special because some of the athletes competing have worked with me over the past 4-8 years. I have found myself holding my breath a lot, jumping up and down and screaming at the TV in every waking moment. No matter what the sport, it is hard not to urge on every single athlete out there who are doing their utmost to achieve their own personal bests when they have worked so hard and for so long to get to this international stage.

Of course, every athlete has their eye on the ultimate prizes – bronze, silver and gold with each countries success inevitably measured by the number and type of medals they win.

My three kids were glued to the TV right next to me, just in case they missed any demonstration of athletic skill and courage. This was a real fear, especially with the sprint events that are over in the blink of an eye! It was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about winning, losing and simply trying their best. They watched the joy, elation, disappointments, devastations and missed opportunities that come with elite sport and recognised the same emotions they experience in the grass roots sports they participate in. A valuable reminder to them all that winning is most certainly not everything.

As the Olympic Creed states, “The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Many of our athletes achieved their personal bests. Imagine pole vaulting a height you have never conquered before, being the first Australian in 40 years to make the final of the 1500m track event or even qualifying for the Olympics for the very first time. All incredible achievements from athletes competing in fields of the best of the best and where races are won by teeny tiny fractions of seconds.

Watching those finely tuned athletes celebrate and acknowledge their personal bests got me thinking about how we do or perhaps don’t recognise our own personal bests in our everyday lives.

Lets face it, looking after your health and well-being is an ongoing job and one that requires dedication and discipline, which quite honestly at times can be rather testing and difficult. When was the last time that you congratulated yourself for eating a healthy breakfast or getting up to exercise on the dark, cold winter mornings or racking up five serves of vegetables in a day or keeping your productivity high by staying hydrated? I’m betting almost never.

We are so much better at criticising ourselves for NOT doing things like only eating one piece of fruit today or missing one exercise session in a week or not being able to resist one little piece of chocolate, rather than focusing on the positive actions that we take.
Think about the ways in which you can note and acknowledge your personal bests each week:

  1. What are you measuring? Get really clear about what this is for you – is it eating less salt, more fibre, daily breakfast or more water? Put some numbers next to your targets so that you know when you hit them.
  2. Take stock each week – use some weekend time to reflect on what you have achieved rather than what you have not. High fives all round if you tallied up some personal bests or if not, think about what you could alter to get them nailed next week.
  3. Get visual – I love a good list or chart and they are perfect for showing me where I am up to and what I have completed especially when looking at racking up ticks for good sleep, consistent exercise or eating well.

Focusing on the positives along with your small and not so small achievements will always propel you towards your own personal bests – don’t let them slip by unnoticed.

Celebration Time

“It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to” 

Jim Jarmusch

I admit that I am on the very bottom of rungs in the world of yoga ability. I am impatient and sadly very inflexible but I keep going because I know that the outcomes of this persistence will be worth it both mentally and physically. A few days ago as I was struggling to maintain my twisted pretzel shape and beating myself up about my incompetencies in my yoga class, I took a breath and told all the little voices in my head to be quiet.  I then asked myself a question, “Instead of being negative and focusing on what you can’t do (yet), how about reflecting on what you have achieved so far?” I had made the effort to get to the class and there was a whole lot of stretching (and pain) going on and although it probably didn’t look particularly pretty, I was actually doing yoga.

Most of us usually celebrate our biggest successes in life such as a new job or a career win without acknowledging how important our smaller yet sometimes more significant achievements are. In the world of health and your own personal performance, worthy milestones might be eating breakfast after many years of skipping it, getting out to exercise in the rain, cementing an exercise routine, completing your first 5 or 10km run, losing 1kg, reducing your cholesterol levels, engineering an extra hours sleep every night, taking time out for yourself to relax, having the energy to get out and play with your kids, implementing a handy strategy to reduce stress levels at work or just plain feeling good about yourself.

I work with a lot of high achievers in the sports and corporate world.  Both are very disciplined, work very hard, have crystal clear goals in mind but are their own harshest critics. Whether it is a World Championship placing or successful negotiation of a deal, they cross the achievement off their list and keep going, often without giving themselves a high five for a job well done. What about your list?  Are you crossing things off it without reflecting on what you have achieved and giving yourself the recognition you deserve?

Weight loss is a perfect example.  I hear people flog themselves about their inability to lose more than 1kg each week or downgrade the achievement of ‘only’ losing 5kg.  Have you ever considered that every time 0.5kg breaks its friendship with you, you have just waved goodbye to the equivalent of 500g margarine or butter?  And what about the fact that you are feeling and looking pretty awesome and your clothes sit rather nicely on you now?

Patting yourself on the back for putting runs on your physical and mental health board is essential to a long term win but you could formally  recognise your successes by writing a daily, weekly or monthly report addressed to yourself. Writing a self-report is a great tool that enables you to hit the pause button and reflect on your successes and wins.

Whether it is exercise, food, stress or sleep, stop focusing on what you’re not good at or what you haven’t done yet and celebrate the smaller yet hugely significant successes along the way. After all, its those incremental steps that get you across your own personal finish line.