Friday 21 October 2016

#MindYourself: Benefits of taking a holistic approach to success

Psychologist Enda McNulty tells Joanna Kiernan about the benefits of taking a holistic approach to success in all aspects of our lives

Published 17/11/2015 | 02:30

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll

Performance expert Enda McNulty has spent over four years as the performance coach to the Leinster Rugby team and played an integral role in Brian O'Driscoll's return to form after injury during the latter stages of his rugby career.

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However, Enda and his company Motiv8 are about more than supporting sporting excellence, they are passionate about encouraging individuals from all sectors to take a holistic approach to life in order to achieve their goals.

"Who's going to be healthy and flourishing at 80? That's what I am interested in," Enda explains, when we meet. "Who is flourishing? Rather than who has achieved 8pc body fat?"

It's 9am on a midweek morning and I am one of Enda's many appointments of the day. I am not his first, either; he has already had two breakfast meetings, the first beginning at 6.30am.

"I think this is the most important space that we can discuss, study and explore and also coach and educate people in," Enda says. "We know that health, fitness and well-being are all different, but they are connected. So we started off initially just in sport and it would have been low-profile, then we got an opportunity to work on small business teams and that happened because one of the guys we were working with in professional sport was ending his career in soccer and was then leading up a business team and asked if we could do exactly the same for his business team as we had been doing for his sports team. So we did a 12-month programme with this very successful sales team, helping them to work on their health, their fitness and their overall performance levels and getting them to challenge their thinking about how much more they could achieve, even though they were already very successful."

According to Enda, to perform at our very best, we must be ready to reflect on who we are first and where we want to be. Enda places emotional intelligence alongside mental toughness and general wellness as critical components to the development of performance in any area, which had led to his work with eager clients from across all sectors - from CEOs and senior executives, to Premiership footballers, professional actors, golfers, athletes and sports coaches.

"I studied psychology in college, but my studies started really as a 14-year-old and I haven't stopped," Enda says. "I am always learning and the best people in fitness, in health, in performance; they are insatiable in their desire to learn and not just in one sphere. As a 14-year-old, I was inspired both by my parents and by a coach in the school that I went to about the importance of having a healthy body and a healthy mind and there hasn't been a day since where I haven't been reading about it, practising it, trying to learn from some of the best guys in the world and local experts in terms of health, fitness and performance."

At 22, Enda, a former Armagh GAA All Star, was faced with a tough question - what was his exit strategy from the sport?

His Gaelic football career was at its height and Enda was studying psychology in Queens University in Belfast, which he would later follow up with a Masters in Sports Science. Like many young sportsmen and women, Enda, content to play at the best of his abilities for his county, had not thought about would happen after his football career.

"My biggest ambition at that time was to win the All Ireland. 95pc of my energy, my thoughts and my work was put into football. I hadn't the foresight to think past that," Enda tells me.

"But then I went away and I thought about it. I ran, I cycled, I thought about it in the gym, I read about it and started researching transition. The best Gaelic football players or dancers or people in marketing or people in sales, all have to realise that there is an end that is going to come to all of that. Everybody's career is going to come to an end and you need to be ready and prepared for that.

"A lot of the young athletes, unfortunately they are in a bit of a cocoon and that cocoon doesn't last very long," Enda explains.

"There is a famous line in the Bruce Springsteen song 'Glory Days' - 'It'll pass you by in the wink of a young girl's eye' - and that's how quickly my Gaelic football career passed me by. It seems like a distant memory now; it's almost like a different life. So I was very lucky in that I started to think about my exit strategy long before it was over."

It wasn't long before Enda discovered his calling and in 2005 he founded his company Motiv8, with a mission "to inspire, coach and guide individuals and teams to make most of their potential in the sports, business and educational sectors". Today, the Motiv8 team includes a number of experts such as proactive health advocate Dr Fionnuala McHale and international athlete David Gillick. In the last 10 years, Motiv8 has worked alongside major companies like Kellogg's Ireland, eBay, Microsoft, Lidl Ireland and Digicel.

Enda describes Motiv8's work as a "life-long labour of love", rather than a career.

"Please God, when I'm 80 and 90, I'll still be working with people to inspire them to flourish and get the best out of themselves," he says.

Enda's methods to extract this key information from people and allow them to work on themselves to achieve what they desire are incredibly refreshing. He has been known to take clients out for long treks or kayaking for an afternoon before getting down to discussing the nitty gritty of what they truly want out of life.

"You need to build rapport and connect with the person rather than saying 'here is your exercise prescription go and do that!' or 'here is your wellness prescription, go and do that!' When you then meet them you spend the first half hour at least understanding them," Enda says.

"Some days, we can do a full-day session with one person, which allows you to have three hours with a person to really get to know them and it needs to be done in a very natural way so we will go into nature, rather than sitting around a boardroom table. As human beings, we are not built for sitting around boardroom tables so we try and get out into nature. So imagine going out for an hour kayaking with someone and then sitting down and saying, 'well, okay, where would you like your health to be in 50 years?' Then, what is their biggest health or fitness or performance challenge? It depends on which one of those remits we have. We customise everything for each individual who comes to us."

Enda believes in practising what he preaches, too. When I ask him how one goes about pursuing their goals in the most practical sense, he flips opens his iPad to reveal his detailed personal plan for 2015.

"That is my plan for this year, mission goals and key performance rituals," he says. "So if I am thinking of my health and fitness - what fulfils me, what do I enjoy where do I need to improve? It is a very holistic approach to life."

"I would be quite honest, in some of those areas I have failed miserably," Enda smiles. "But I want to be lucky enough to have comprehensive well-being and for that to be holistic rather than one-dimensional."

Enda focuses on eight key areas for this planning process: health, fitness, family and relationships, career, personal development, contribution to our community and financial situation.

"We are all going to be deficient in some areas of our lives, so how do we think about improving ourselves, almost coaching ourselves and being our own positive coach?

"It's about being kind to yourself rather than saying 'well, I'm crap at area A, B or C', and then taking it from there."

Irish Independent

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