/

5 ways to overcome challenges

Professor Greg Whyte, sports scientist and author, shares easy ways to cope with life's difficulties

illustration of reaching goals

1. Think big

The biggest barrier to achieving success is often ourselves and those around us. How often have you thought about doing something challenging and find yourself saying: 'I'll never be able to achieve that!' More often, in my experience, it is the lack of support from those closest to you, your family and friends, who play the critical role in halting a challenge before it has even begun. ‘There’s no way you can do that’ is a classic response to the presentation of a potential challenge to friends and family that leads to the first and most important risk to your challenge.

Overcoming this first barrier and identifying your challenge is the first step on your road to success. Make sure the challenge is important to you, that you have the time to commit to the planning, preparation and delivery of the challenge, and that you have the resources to deliver success (money, equipment etc). Having established your challenge, then you should go public and let family, friends and colleagues know what you are aiming to achieve – a challenge shared is a challenge halved!

2. Set goals

Major challenges can often appear unachievable when viewed as a whole. The key to delivering success is to dissect the challenge into a number of smaller steps which together lead to the delivery of your challenge. Each small step can be viewed as a short-term goal. Combining a number of short-term goals leads to the delivery of a medium-term goal, and combining medium-term goals leads to the completion of your journey, the delivery of your long-term goal (your challenge) and success.

Goal-setting is relatively simple if you follow a few simple rules. A goal should be challenging but achievable - it is important that you establish your goals at the beginning and make sure they are outside your comfort zone; don’t set your sights low. In addition, make sure that the goal is measurable so you can monitor your progress on a regular basis. And most importantly, celebrate success. When you achieve a goal, make sure to smell the roses!

3. Brain power

Most of the challenges we take on appear entirely physical in nature – losing weight, running a marathon, developing a beach body – but the brain is central to the delivery of success whatever the challenge. It is rarely our physical selves that stop us from achieving a major challenge. More often it is our loss of belief, commitment and motivation that leads to failure. This psychological trio works together in harmony to keep you on the road to success.

Believing you can achieve your goal provides the foundations in overcoming your challenge. With belief comes a commitment to investing the time, effort and resources to make sure you continue to deliver your short-term goals, and repeated success in delivering your goals increases your motivation which, in turn, increases your belief in your abilities to deliver your long-term goal.

Making sure you pay attention to your brain performance throughout your challenge will optimise your chances of delivering your physical goals.

4. Leave no stone unturned

Achieving a major goal is rarely simply about delivering on a single determinant of performance. The road to a successful challenge requires the optimisation of a range of performance variables simultaneously. For example, achieving a better physique is not simply about doing more sit-ups! You must improve your diet, increase your strength and endurance training, optimise your sleep and recovery etc. So, having committed to the challenge, you must construct a plan to optimise each of the areas required to deliver success.

In addition to those determinants required to deliver success, there will also be risks that negatively impact on performance. For example, if your goal is to stop smoking, a common risk comes from friends who do not share your enthusiasm and continually offer you cigarettes. Making sure you have a plan to address any risks when they arise is vital. The more detailed the plan, the greater your chances of success. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail! Do not leave anything to chance; success is not a chance event.

5. Signing the contract

Making a contract with yourself to deliver success is particularly valuable when you are struggling with belief, commitment and/or motivation. By formalising an arrangement detailing your goal and when you will deliver it, you are much more likely to be successful. This may seem a slightly bizarre approach, but the more formal the contract, the greater the chances of delivering on your commitment to it.

Your contract raises the selective importance of your goal and provides the necessary motivation to persist with the appropriate amount of work until you have delivered success. Asking a third party, someone close to you, to witness the contract will raise the importance of the contract and the responsibility on you to deliver success. Having made a contract place in a public place, like the fridge. This will increase the importance of your commitment to the contract and raise the profile of the reward once you deliver success. Here is an example of a personal contract for weight-management that you could adapt for your own challenge.

I, the undersigned, do hereby promise that I will not drink alcohol on a weekday evening and I will limit my consumption to 12 units of alcohol at the weekends.

Name:                                                           

Signed:                                             

Witnessed:                                      

 

Professor Greg Whyte OBE is a world-renowned sports scientist, director of performance at the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP) and author of Achieve the Impossible (Bantam Press, £12.99).  

Illustration: iStock  

More inspiration:

Sign up for our Life Labs Practical Wisdom online course Achieve Your Goals here

Read Do you have enough self-discipline? on LifeLabs

                                    

related news & articles