It is fair to say that most of us were not expecting a worldwide pandemic to strike or to go through lockdowns, tiers and constant speculations – nor to be catching up with alarming statistics everyday, speaking of infection rates, death rates and admission rates. It has created a background noise of social anxiety topped with personal anxieties about our jobs, businesses and finances. No, we were not expecting a worldwide pandemic. We can be sure that good times are on their way; for although we have seen the darkness, we have also seen the light of resilience and hope shining through.
So many businesses have had the rug pulled from beneath their feet. One such category is Sports Coaches. Used to seeing their clients face to face and being able to monitor close progress, they suddenly found themselves unable to coach in the way that they have been doing – many for their whole careers. I talked to two sports coaches about how they have adapted. This required some real resilience; perspective-taking, exploring possibilities and commitment to a change with an uncertain timescale. I have also considered a wide range of other businesses and projects and this is what I have observed around me about those who have continued to thrive in a precarious environment
Major unwelcome change comes along as a threat to your livelihood and your way of life – Absorb the shock;
Start to be creative about what other opportunities might be available to you to create something different – Breathe in the possibilities;
Consider what is going to be best for you and those you support, your community and your family – Calm consideration;
Dive into your inner resources to pull out your best strengths and start making them work for you – Dig deep;
Emerge with a renewed focus, determination, strengths-based goals, positive action and gratitude – Emerge energised!
The Gymnastics Coach
Paul Turner owns Northwood Gymnastics Club, a well-established successful club with thousands of children on its books. Paul loves the sense of community that his classes foster and the role he plays in the physical and mental health of those children. It is a well-researched phenomenon, that we are not just bodies carrying minds around or minds controlling a body; we are a whole and physical and mental health is inextricably linked. In positive psychology terms, physical activity has been described as a ‘stellar’ intervention. For children during the pandemic, largely deprived of their friends, social contact, games and laughter, it is no wonder that the reports of their mental health taking a nose-dive has been so prevalent.
Unable to run gymnastics classes for the children, Paul created an alternative ‘GymFit’ online. I attended an online class to see what went on. Firstly, the class provides a well structured workout – so that ticks the physical health box. But further, there were some other crucial impressive elements; there was fun and there were positive messages. Paul tells the children to watch his moves before launching into them “use your gymoculas, watch, don’t do, gymoculas” – on Zoom a class of children are making binoculars with their hands; as they go through the exercises Paul is coaching them “we are taking this as an opportunity; we’re coming out of this better and stronger!” “can you feel the heat – that’s you getting better and stronger!”. The ‘chat’ doesn’t stop throughout the session, it is what Paul modestly calls his ‘waffle’ but it is all messages about having courage, building strength, having hope for the future…… At the end of the workout all the kids give a virtual high five and you can see the smiles and positive emotions beaming out of them. And you know what they say about positive emotions. (If you do not – here’s a clue: it’s good things).
The Ski Coach and Positive Psychologist
Derek Tate runs Parallel Dreams Coaching Academy in Chamonix, France, a business that combines skiing with positive psychology; specialising in the science of ‘Flow’. However, much of Derek’s work is normally based on the slopes and, of course, that. Just. Stopped.
Derek took to walking to clear his mind and satisfy his love of the outdoors; this kept his mood lifted and allowed him to become clear about the best way forward in the unexpected situation. Derek knows a lot about Flow, having specialised in it in this MAPP at Bucks New University and it came to him that now was the time to develop the link that he had identified between high performance sport with flow, enjoyment and growth. He started walking and drafting and walking and drafting and if the next part of the project did not quite come to him, he exercised self-compassion, being patient with himself and accepting that some days would be about tinkering around the edges of his project – while other days it would be like skiing his most beautiful run, finding that sense of flow in his work.
He has found it a good opportunity to practise what he preaches, in positive psychology terms; it has required a sense of discipline and focus. He explores the commonality between present moment focus and how this increases the likelihood of flow leading to better concentration skills. Only this time, he didn’t have the slopes to test his theory on, it was him and a computer sharing what he has learned in order to help other people. His book, ‘Learn, Enjoy, Grow and Flow’ is available now.
These are just two examples of people I have had the privilege of talking to about how they have fared when their business model was seriously disrupted – not only did they choose a new focus, they took their message of resilience and positivity out there in their work for others to become stronger. It is worth taking a moment of gratitude and looking around in the community at the models of resilience and hope all around us. Humbling.
Read more about Nicola Morgan and her other articles HERE