As all of us will most likely now be aware the Winter Olympic Games have started in Vancouver Canada. It’s now day four of the games and that means the first day of cross-country skiing events. These events are obviously close to my heart as something of a cross-country ski enthusiast and it is great to know that for the first time in 16 years Great Britain will have representatives in these events. Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young will be competing in the Mens 15km freestyle event whilst Fiona Hughes will compete in the Ladies 10km. A shout out also to Ireland’s PJ Barron who will be racing as well in this afternoon’s events and trains with the rest of the British team.
This is a fantastic achievement not just for the three individuals in question but for all the coaching team who have helped get them there over the past ten years, British Nordic Development Squad coaches Roy Young, Anghared Evans, Ekaterina Rachel, Keith Spencer, Marek Pasterny, Pete Gurney, Roger Homyer and Steve Boyd and Al Dargie as well as club coaches at a number of local clubs across the UK such as the Cairngorm Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club and Huntly Nordic Ski Club.
It is also testament to the competitiveness of the rest of the squad that these three individuals have been pushed to this level of performance. It is perhaps overlooked when the Olympics comes around and the focus is on the top three places, just how much work goes into preparing, training, resting and equipping all the athletes in the field, not just to get them to the start line today but every day over the past four years since the last games or longer. There has also been a huge amount of effort and commitment from a significant number of athletes who didn’t make it this year and whom having missed out this time are already planning the next four years to take them to Soichi 2014, not to mention all the British Championships, World Junior Championships, World Cup and World Championship campaigns in the interim.
Indeed, four years ago if you had asked me what my central ambition in life was, it was to be on the start line alongside these guys, I gave it my best shot but its a hundred times harder than those guys out there will make it look today. That is a credit not only to them but their coaches, families and supporters no matter the results today. Indeed, it is so great from a Motivational perspective to see all of them and Andrew Musgrave in particular, in their interviews for the BBC, talk about how these Games are about experience and providing performance benchmarks for future years performance. As anybody who has read up on Motivational Theory or competed in elite level sport will know, successful performance and sustaining motivated behaviour comes as a result of focusing on your own (intrinsic) performance, not simply measuring it based on extrinsic rewards such as medals, money or praise.
I’ve talked about this a lot on this blog, with reference to Dweck’s (2000) Entity and Incremental ‘implict theories’ of behaviour and with reference to my own models of motivated behaviour (http://www.fergusbisset.com/blog/2009/12/09/modelling-motivation-in-the-design-of-products-systems-and-services/ and http://www.fergusbisset.com/blog/2009/12/03/managing-motivation/) that underline the value of encouraging ourselves and the people we work with to consider their behaviour in terms of their long term aims and ambitions – Mastery Orientation if you will.
Whilst it is these three young skiers that will represent all of us in Great Britain in the races this evening. I believe that what they and all their competitors from all the other nations have achieved and will continue to achieve represents a way of thinking and a behaviour that all of us can benefit from considering:
- How we work together in teams or families to achieve our shared objectives – how do we support, share and inspire ourselves and those around to achieve our personal and shared aims, whatever those aims might be.
- How we reflect, think and introspect upon our own performance – how does it fit with our personal values and aims and how does it compare with those around us – is our day to day behaviour going to take us where we want to be in four to five years time?
- Do we enjoy our day to day experiences and the challenges and pleasures they throw up enough for our long terms aims to be worthwhile? We’re all aware of the phrase “Life’s too short…” How do we manage and regulate our own day to day performances and how we interact with the world around us to ensure we are fulfilling our potential and contributing as much as possible to those around us and our dreams and ambition?
Where do you want to be in four years time? And for the designers and behavioural change professionals amongst us, how do we design products, systems and services that support this level of experience, thought and performance? What else can we learn from the Olympics and Olympians in terms of how to energise and support human motivation and performance?
Good luck to Andrew, Andrew and Fi as well as to all of the rest of us!