I was very fortunate to be a professional athlete and represent Great Britain at two Olympic Games. But during that time, I struggled with my mental health and was ultimately diagnosed with depression, bipolar tendencies and anxiety.
The journey I have since been on, including therapy, a return to sport, and becoming a mental health ambassador changed my outlook on life. Ultimately, I realised that my main passion is wellbeing and wanting to help others. Now I am proud to lead on performance for national wellbeing platform Champion Health
I strongly believe that wellbeing is the foundation of high performance. We are all high-performers and we’re all striving to be the best we can be. We’re also all human beings – we all have our wellbeing to consider. For too long wellbeing and performance have been viewed as being on opposite ends of the spectrum, when in reality they go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. The question is: how do we bridge the gap between the two?
Throughout my time in elite sport, I learnt many lessons about the links between wellbeing and performance, but these lessons don’t just belong on the running track. They apply to every human being, in every role they play, be that as an employee, a colleague, a parent, or a friend.
Here are my top tips and personal experiences of bridging the gap between wellbeing and performance in the workplace:
1. Focus on the personal and the professional will thrive
My time in elite sport has taught me one thing above all others: a happy athlete is a fast athlete. Make sure you’re giving yourself the opportunity to thrive personally. If the human part of you is thriving, then the professional part of you will as well.
2.Measure yourself on effort, not results
If you want to find consistency, judge yourself on effort. When you achieve this consistency, your life will become a high-performance plateau. I learnt this from training with some of the best athletes. They were not superstars every day. They were just consistently showing up and giving it their all.
3. Find your why
For a long time I only ever ran for external validation. I didn’t run because I wanted to, I ran because everyone expected me to. But external motivation is temporary and it won’t keep you going when things get tough.
My personal why is to help people, and I’m very fortunate that my roles within coaching and Champion Health allow me to do that. However, I’m aware that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a job that directly aligns with their why.
4. Failure is a non-negotiable part of success.
Fear of failure is just a fear of learning. I never wanted to fail, so I just avoided the situations where I might. Build a thriving culture, where employees are using failure to drive continued improvement.
5. Control the controllables
Focus on what makes you a high performer and the things you can control to make that happen, like your attitude towards work, or the steps you take to prioritise your wellbeing. By doing this, you will give yourself clarity, and increase your ability to perform in stressful or high-pressured environments.
6. There’s power in vulnerability
For a long time I saw vulnerability as weakness. I’d imagine that some people feel the same.
Talk to others at work about how you’re feeling, whether that be your colleagues, your manager, or just someone that you can trust. Once you do this, you’ll find that those feelings hold much less power over you.
As leaders, there’s no need to pretend you’re bullet-proof. If you’re struggling with your mental health, make sure you confide in someone as well. If you want to play your part in driving a compassionate culture throughout your organisation, open up to your teams about times when you have struggled. By doing so, you can empower your employees to do the same.