There are days when I feel like a champion – it can be on whatever arena. Closing a long-desired business deal, scoring a goal in football (yes, even at my age), helping someone to help themselves over a challenge, or finishing a long-due blog post. And I LOVE that feeling!
I don’t know about you, but for me it has taken a while to realize how empowering it can be when you seek to connect to your Inner Champion on a daily basis and celebrating tiny wins more regularly than only when someone else gives you a medal (Which, of course, is also nice, but sometimes you get grey-haired waiting for it. Still waiting for the Mom of the Year-award, but the judges seem to have quite whimsy minds.)
But what does it mean – connecting to your Inner Champion? What images do you get in your head? Do they inspire, or exhaust you?
If you had asked me that question at age 20 I would have quoted the former US soccer-star Mia Hamm:
”The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”
Hard work, the ability to endure pain, never giving up – you know, the “sweat-blood-and-tears”-mentality”. Setting inspiring goals and making careful plans how to grow your abilities to reach the potential which makes those goals possible to reach. Absolutely hating failure, but finding a way to climb over disappointments by setting the next goal. There is tremendous energy and positive power in that approach.
Until I hit 30.
Well, actually, it more or less hit me. You know the deal – not sleeping enough, being totally single-minded and addicted to doing and performing, thinking you are superwoman and no law of human nature can ever touch you. Until they do. Small injuries, hyperventilation attacks etc. (Which, of course, you would label as pollen allergy, since there is no way you could ever be so human as to suffer from stress attacks. Sadly, doctors would try to show you other kinds of proof, but as a “winner” you know when to ignore doctor’s orders.)
Long story short, you hit a small wall which gives you a wake-up call and fuels you to make some minor life changes (like changing country and career). Slowly, a realization starts to grow that there is more to Inner Championship than the narrow definition you had lived with so far.
Taking care of your energies and respecting the needs of the human being, for once. But, like it so easily goes, I went to the other extreme. Only embracing wellness and stress management thoughts and literature was probably much needed, but at some point, I started missing getting things done – things that inspired me, which gave me great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Thankfully, brighter people than me gave me the mental green light to embrace this side again, just maybe more wisely (well, it’s at least nice to think so).
At that time the “happiness professor” Martin Seligman launched his book about flourishing, and one thing he included in his model was that we humans also need the sense of accomplishment in order to feel happy. So, thank you, Martin. The 30’s was a decade of balancing wellness needs with seeking daily growth through learning and becoming aware of even tiny accomplishments.
And then came the kids…
Yeah, connecting to my Inner Champion was more profoundly challenged than ever before. I wish I could say I developed a wisdom on how to connect to my Inner Champion at the time I slept 2 hours per night. No, ei, nej, njet, nein. That Inner Champion-girl had obviously been so smart and bought a one-way ticket to Barbados, sending me mental selfies from the beach, embracing more fun challenges.
I felt alone without her, and for the first time I started to understand the deepest value of taking support from others and the super-powers of a “team”. (Which is kind of funny, since I’ve always prided myself of being a team player, but there were additional lessons to be learnt.) Not easy for someone who is used to rely on herself to ask for help, to really embrace acceptance “of what is, is” (Power of Now, E. Tolle – great book btw) and to practice self-compassion – and compassion directed towards others.
See, my Inner Championship-mentality had been quite selfish up until then. Me, myself, and I. Which is, of course, necessary to a certain extent. Usually here it is customary to quote the much-cited metaphor of what they urge you to do in airplanes in crisis situations: To put the gas mask on yourself first before helping anyone else. But the thing is that I had been so busy fiddling with my own gas mask that I hadn’t noticed all those other poor bastards.
Actually, the same Mia Hamm puts it much better:
“It’s not about me. It has never been all about me. If it had, this would have been a really lonely journey.”
So, at least for me, this is a time for recap and trying to integrate some thoughts into a more sustainable, but equally empowering recipe for cultivating my Inner Champion. (That’s the only way to get her back from Barbados. She has just grown too fond of all the fun and sun, can’t blame her.) It has the following ingredients:
- Know where you are, establish where you want to go and who you need to be for that.
- Dare to dream big – and break it down to tiny steps and habits (Like the frog who is slowly cooked to death without realizing it – but just the opposite: Slowly breeding a true platform where championships are possible. I know, awful metaphor, sorry!)
- Embrace learning, every day. Anyone can be your teacher. (I dare you to try this out for a day. Makes wonders! But not all teachings should be taken on board – that would be too easy.)
- Challenge yourself in a curious way.
- Regard obstacles as challenges, and mistakes as learning opportunities.
- When you are disappointed, be it fully. For a while. And the move on.
- Be persistent and never give up. Small-printed loophole paragraph: Unless when it is the wise thing to do!
- Dare to listen to yourself – your intuition, your body, your mind. (REALLY challenging, I might add, like when to know when you should push yourself, and when to take a break. Requires life-long practice.)
- Know and respect your human needs – physical, emotional, social and mental. Know how you function best and what your individual needs are. Rest before you get tired.
- Treat everyone with respect, regardless.
- Be in your power, whenever possible. Straighten your back, push your shoulders back, lift your chin up, smile and let your eyes shine. FEEL the power centre in your body, wherever it is.
- Be proud AND be humble.
- Practice gratefulness.
- Seek to see the potential in others, and every day, strengthen someone.
- Treat yourself kindly, with respect. And push yourself, lovingly.
- Laugh. At yourself, and with others.
- Remember to embrace joy and enjoyment. Both when winning championships, smaller and bigger. And on the path, every day.
I know, there are lots more, but that’s what surfaced today.
How about you, what’s your definition of Inner Championship? What is your team’s definition of it? Or maybe you want to use another name that resonates better with you or your team? What would it be?
Since repetition is one key to mastery, here is one more Mia Hamm for you (actually for myself, for the day):
”Sports are not about awards or world championships, though those are great. They’re about the relationships we have with each other.”
Hope you all the best in unleashing your Inner Champion! (Mine should be back any day now, ticket back home is bought and sent. Yes, we will have fair salary negotiations.)
Christina Leadership Coach, Mental Trainer at www.innerkey.fi
PS. Interested in embracing and strengthening your or your teams Inner Champion? Whether your arena is in business, in sports or somewhere else, contact me and I will tell you more about our coaching- and training programs focused on building the platforms for “Inner Championship”! (firstname.lastname@example.org; +358 50 364 8711)