How are you measuring your success?

In today’s world, we have a propensity to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Data and analytics professional, Ted Speaker, and wheelchair athlete Dean Furness has a few reasons for why focusing on anyone other than yourself is detrimental to your goals and sense of self.

In 2011, Dean was in an accident that broke his T5 and T6 vertebrae, resulting in him being paralyzed from the chest down. The frustration Dean felt from his situation was alleviated by one thing. Dean realized he had to focus on forgetting who he used to be, and in turn focus on who he was able to become in his new environment. A key point to this mindset was to focus on the ‘current average’. What was he able to do today in the moment? A good or bad day is a very subjective thing, and according to Dean, when you take into consideration the bigger picture, the math starts adding up to make our days not as bad as we may be thinking.

According to Dean, there is not only danger in how we compare ourselves to a past version of ourselves, but also in how we compare ourselves to others. At the beginning of recovery, Dean recounts a time when he attended a rehab class with other individuals where they had a workout challenge. To keep up with everyone around him, Dean had to push himself and was barely able to straighten his arms for a few days, a very challenging predicament for someone using a wheelchair.

The rest of the Ted Talk focuses on the effect community and athletic coaching had on Dean’s goal setting and mindset. In early 2016, a physical therapist suggested that Dean participate in a half marathon. And although there were a thousand unknown possibilities, he got to work and focused on creating a personal average.
This opened up the door of wheelchair racing. With the 2017 Chicago marathon being Dean’s first full marathon, he was intimidated as there were Paralympic athletes far faster than him. He recalled having to work hard on not comparing himself to others. What ultimately helped him in this first marathon was finding a sense of belonging prior to the race itself. A coach noticed his anxiety and invited him to have dinner with the team and this helped Dean remember that he didn’t have to focus on the averages of those around him.

Ultimately, what he found to be most successful in his racing over the past several years has been to be able to return to his average and focus on this. It hasn’t mattered what everyone else is doing.

As coaches, this is a powerful reminder for your clients and yourselves. There will likely always be the opportunity for competition, however the only thing we can truly control is how we focus on our own work, and a good way to do this is to look at the averages. Good days and bad days are a part of life, so is the unexpected. As coaches, helping your clients see through their rapidly changing environments, and reminding them about the communities they have to support them can help a coachee stay on track with their averages.

If you would like to watch the full Ted Talk by Dean Furness, you can find that here:

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle