high performance, opportunity identification, raising the bar, operating framework, capacity circle, the achieve institute
10 Aug 2016

What Business Professionals Can Learn From Olympic High Jumpers

The high jump competition is different than most. Competitors begin jumping at the announced height and continue jumping as the bar gets raised higher and higher. Clear the bar, and you have succeeded. Knock the bar off and it’s a failure – but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the competition. It’s only after three consecutive missed jumps that the jumper is eliminated. When you think about it, even a winning athlete has to fail three times to succeed. Learning to be inspired and energized when faced with the past failures and the potential for disappointment is the key to unlock high performance.

High jumpers not only compete with their opponents, they are also in competition with their past and the past of other competitors. They know how high they can jump and what those who have come before them have accomplished. The bar is set; it’s a visible representation of a height to be cleared. The high jumper can clearly see their goal, and they create within themselves the psychological mindset needed to go for this goal.  At Achieve, we call a person’s mindset their “Operating Framework.”  For a high jumper, their Operating Framework gets tested with every single attempt.

Image the strong Operating Framework takes to mentally prepare for a final attempt, after failing the two previous tries. An athlete can’t drag the negative feelings of past failures forward into the present. They must simply learn from their past experiences and prepare mentally for a successful future. Studies have shown time and time again that even after two setbacks the high jumper’s potential for success on their third attempt is considerable. Their Operating Framework is strong.

Imagine you are a high jumper. At your peak, you can jump seven feet. If you never wanted to fail, you’d place the bar very low, maybe around five feet, and never raise it. Sure, you’d go home never failing, but is this really success?  To truly succeed, you want to raise the bar.

As you are successful and the bar raises higher and higher you experience different emotions, you get nervous or worried you might fail, but a successful high jumper’s Operating Framework doesn’t work that way. Instead, when approaching a known limit, a successful high jumper gets excited and encouraged. Even after failing three times and ending the competition, the high jumper is proud, knowing that they have done their best.

What can we learn from the high jumper? We want to strengthen our Operating Framework, that way when the bar goes up, we don’t feel anxious or frustrated.  Instead we feel confident, energized and motivated to see how far we can go. An Operating Framework that allows us to learn from our past, keeps us positive and connects us to a successful future, gives us the best chance to clear that bar.

When failure and disappointment are most probable, the opportunity for success is huge. There’s nothing wrong with the bar coming off. You will learn from this experience, and know how to better approach your goal the next time.

What is your mindset when approaching your goals? Is it negative or positive?  We work with people every day to strengthen their Operating Framework and help them clear the bar. We’d love to hear from you too.

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