Athletic Strength Drives Business Strength

Every spring for the last 6 years or so I hang up my swim goggles, walk down to my gym and shock myself out of my comfort zone by competing in the CrossFit Open. I find myself surrounded by athletes who are pushing the limits of their abilities and endurance, and it’s exhilarating. One day, when the going got tough, I picked up a few pointers from a guy who’s currently ranked 7th in the world in the CrossFit Games. (At the time he was ranked 5th, just 2 spots shy of the podium!)

It took me a minute to collect myself, but then I said to him “How many people are 5th in the world… in anything?” It’s impressively mind blowing! So we talked about what that meant for him. Then I went home and started thinking: despite his unassuming manner, it’s obvious that his physical strength gives him the confidence to excel in other areas of his life, not just at the gym. And then it hits me… Here is someone who is truly ‘grounded in his strength’, which is an important key to business confidence.

Here’s the deal: when I’m not physically training for something, I’m coaching executives on how to communicate with strength and confidence. Both require effort, determination and enthusiasm. Over the last 20 years working with business exec’s on public speaking, there’s one thing I know for sure: Nearly everyone would rather be in the audience than on stage giving the presentation. And quite often their reluctance has to do with low levels of confidence.

Strength builds confidence, it’s as simple as that. I coach my clients to get ‘grounded in strength’ before walking on stage to send confident messages to the brain exactly when they need them.

The problem is, many people have a hard time identifying their strengths, and therefore have nothing to draw on when the going gets tough. In fact, in any evaluative situation where stress levels are high (whether they are on stage delivering a speech, in a conference room negotiation, in an interview, or in some kind of competition) it’s important to be able to project strong levels of confidence… but that confidence must come from somewhere.

Certainly, if you and I were 5th in the world in something, our confidence would stem from that. Since we’re not, here’s the workaround: Let’s identify what we do well, and then let’s identify what we need help with:

  1. Where do you excel?
  2. Where would you like to excel?

(By the way, it’s important to pull from your current, present-day activities for this exercise. If you were on the track team 3o years ago, I can almost guarantee that won’t help you gain a present-day surge of confidence.)

After you’ve identified your strengths (where you excel) write a few of them down on a small piece of paper and put that paper in your back pocket. Now visualize how you feel doing those things you excel at and allow yourself to experience that feeling. One of the greatest sources of strength we have is to tap into the unlimited reservoir of imagery.

This is a technique used all over the world by elite athletes and it works. In the athletic world we call it our “Greatest Hits Album”, and we play the tracks over and over in our mind as we attempt our next (uncertain) challenge. Basically, we’re using certain strength from where we excel to build an authentic confidence to tackle something new (the uncertain).

This is easily translated to the business world: Bring your strength from one area, walk into that stressful situation and use these exact words:
“I did that. I can do this.”

I use this technique myself as I approach every new challenge, and I’ve shared it many times in my professional training. Once you’re able to identify your strength, you become better equipped to handle pretty much anything that gets thrown your way. This is not an arrogant confidence, but a strong, genuine confidence.

This is the foundation to becoming “Grounded in Strength”. Good Luck!

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Kate Curtis

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