How to get out of your own way for success

Great inspiration for us all! What do you dare to dream??

This Twitter post from new Wimbledon champ Simona Halep really caught my attention. Why? Because I’m a facilitator and coach who works with people and teams every day to support them to achieve their dreams. It’s something I’m absolutely passionate about and driven to do. It hurts me deeply to see wonderful people not achieving their potential or losing their spark or becoming disconnected with their higher, courageous selves or not being recognised and seen in their workplace for who they really are.

I wanted to learn more about Simona to understand how she had made this breakthrough in her performance. In this blog I wanted to share with you some of the lessons she learnt to realise her dream as her experiences and barriers to success are the same for all of us that we face in our lives every day. I also want to share a technique with you that you can use to tap into your dreams and motivate you to win your own version of Wimbledon.

The following is a collection of excerpts from a terrific article in the New Yorker by Louise Thomas. Click here to read article.

“It was alternately thrilling and heartbreaking to watch, as an internal struggle played out on her face, in the set of her shoulders, in the depth of her shot and the placement of her serve. Occasionally, she seemed simply to give up. “She became her worst enemy quite often,” Darren Cahill, who was Halep’s coach from 2016 until the end of 2018, said. “She fought more than one opponent,” he added—there was the player across the net, the people in her coaching box, and herself.

“Probably my biggest job,” Cahill said, was improving Halep’s attitude during matches.

After Miami, Halep concluded that her attitude really was her biggest obstacle, one that she couldn’t overcome with willpower alone.

“You know what I discovered about myself being negative?” Halep said. “It was that I didn’t want to make expectations and to be disappointed that I was not able to do it.” She hadn’t allowed herself to believe that she really could be the top player in the world. Halep found, counterintuitively, that it was easier to handle the disappointment of not being No. 1 when she first believed she could actually do it. “If you understand that,” she said, “you can change something.”

“The attitude was an instant change,” Cahill told me.

She and a psychologist worked on visualizing how she would conduct herself on the court. She chose words of encouragement to focus on in times of stress. She started to explore why it was that she was so hard on herself.

But she also began to accept the idea that losing was part of a long process—a process with the goal of winning, of course, but, first, of growth—as “a person,” she said, “not a tennis player.”

She worked on not calling Cahill onto the court during tour-level matches and trying, instead, to solve problems on her own. Cahill had made it clear that he wanted Halep to learn to guide herself on the court. “The best thing a coach can do is coach himself out of the job, because that means the player is understanding the problems,” he said.

Still, something had shifted. “Life changed after the French Open,” she said. Not life, exactly; the carousel of tournaments was the same, and she was already used to her sponsors’ ceaseless demands. What she meant was that she had changed.

When we spoke in March, she told me that her main goal for the year was “to play every match one hundred per cent” and not lose energy on court by complaining. “My focus is not on the result. It’s growing up as a person,” she said. “A process. A big picture.”

There are so many lessons to learn from Simona’s experience. The one that really stood out to me was her fear of failure – “It was that I didn’t want to make expectations and to be disappointed that I was not able to do it”. Does that resonate with you? So often we don't dare to dream because we're afraid of failure, or we try to protect ourselves from potential hurt by imaging everything that could go wrong. We get in our own way and often sabotage ourselves to avoid being disappointed.

Simona was able to use her journey of self-awareness as a tool for personal growth that led to her professional success. In doing so she was able to focus on her dreams, rather than her fear, and stop sabotaging herself.

One of the many things I love about coaching people is enabling them to tap into their hopes and dreams. I’d like to share one of the simple processes I use to do this. It’s called the Miracle Question.

Step 1:

Ask yourself:

Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you wake up tomorrow,everything is as you would like it to be.What would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better? What would be different to now? What would you see? What would you be doing? How would you be behaving? etc."

This simple process explores the possibility of everything going right. It’s future-focused and points you in the direction of your dreams and the possibilities rather than focusing on your problems, barriers and the past.

This technique is about increasing your self-awareness. Our brains have a negativity bias where we often focus on what will go wrong rather than what could go right. By imaging what would happen if everything was suddenly going really well, this give us an idea of the goals we should focus on and the identity we would like to have. I love this technique as a coaching process as it challenges people to rise above the hurdles of their limiting self-beliefs and their fears. 

Step 2:

There is then work to do on identifying actions to take that will take you towards your hopes and dreams.

Ask yourself:

“What can you do that would help you to move, even if in only a small way, towards the new world you have described?

The changes you make don’t have to be huge. It’s better to break the action down into small steps that you can start to do immediately. This creates momentum and a feeling of achievement and builds confidence. Often it’s the small steps, done consistently that lead to bigger change.

I asked a miracle question of a coaching client who wanted to make change in her business. She closed her eyes, connected in with herself and imagined and dreamt. One of the things she identified that she wanted a new location for her business. She described a light, bright office, with a white table, that had flowers on it, a professional space where she and her business partner could take their business to the next level. We discussed some simple actions she could take for taking the dream to reality.

I was blown away when a week after her session she sent me a photo of the new office space she had rented and how excited she was that it was exactly as she’d imagined. This enabled her and her business partner to spend time with each other rather than working separately from home and to employ some staff so that she and her partner were able to focus on doing the strategic and business development work and their staff could do the operational work.

As a coach and facilitator it is so rewarding to see people imagine new possibilities for themselves, gain clarity around their dreams, articulate what they really want in work and life, gain confidence in themselves to have success, and finally to see them identify actions they can take to realise success.

It all starts with daring to dream - just like our new Wimbledon champ Simona Halep.

What do you dare to dream?