Give your career a workout by dreaming even bigger
What prevents us from reaching our full potential? Do we fear failure? Do we worry what our friends or family might say? I often think it's because we don't dream big enough. We settle because we don't think we're one of the 'special ones'.
The chief executive with the corner office. The star you watch on TV. The national fitness champion you admire when you both happen to be in the gym at the same time.
Since January, I have recommitted myself to strengthening my body to help strengthen my mind. I got a personal trainer, hit the weights and lost 16 pounds (that's just over seven kilos).
An additional positive result of my regular visits to the gym is that I became friends with that champion I mentioned, and I am thrilled now to share her story with you.
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Fiona O'Connor is a solicitor by training, a contract manager with software startup Pipedrive by career, and for one whopper of a hobby, she has won several national and international fitness competitions.
Her top trophies include the 2016 and 2017 International Natural Bodybuilding Association accolades for best figure overall, as well as taking top honours at the Republic of Ireland Bodybuilding Federation Classics in 2018 and again last April. But it wasn't always that way.
"Years ago, I was in a stressful job living in Australia. It created a lot of stress and anxiety," O'Connor told me.
"I would get home at 7pm and would eat a pizza or have a drink to relax. I ate my feelings and I gained a lot of weight."
Finally, she saw a photo that she didn't even recognise of herself. "But I didn't want to go to the gym. I was too embarrassed. I took walks in the dark so I didn't have to see myself." How did she transform from that person who wouldn't step into the gym to one who steps on stage and flexes her muscles in sparkly heels and a bikini?
Let's explore her fitness lessons together, and see if you can apply them to help you achieve more than you have dreamed before.
1 Break it down
"Small changes can make a big impact. It wasn't a quick fix. Thinking in increments is critical," O'Connor reveals.
"Right now, I'm back to training for the next competition. It's in six months. But that seems too long. So, I put it into weeks. One week at a time." O'Connor breaks her routine into basics: "I need to sleep. I need to eat. I need to train." For your dream or goal, consider the smallest of steps. Track your incremental steps to celebrate micro-milestones along the way.
2 Visualise, plan and time-manage
"I envision what success looks like for me," O'Connor says. She also stresses how important it is to plan ahead as she prepares her food and the proportions on a weekly basis. "I find that a lot of my friends make excuses: 'I have kids', 'I don't have the time'.
"But we all have busy lives and a lot going on. Look at your priorities and commitments.
"I get up at 4:45am because I have to get my training in and be to the office by 9am. We all can make the time."
"When I was a child, if I worked hard in school, I could go to the disco. There was something at the end of it. Today, I am driven by the desire to constantly improve and learn and grow," she adds.
What motivates you today? What gives you a great sense of achievement?
Grab your notebook and start writing daily or weekly goals, along with the something that you will reward yourself with. Hint: not chocolate.
4 Seek support
We all need people who will support and encourage us. O'Connor agrees: "I can only achieve so much by myself. Support is critical.
"But you can't expect that people will just help you; you have to ask. If you're having a bad day, have someone listen to you whinge for five minutes. Get their perspective and then get back at it."
5 Keep going
Getting back at it is the key. What happens when something doesn't go as planned? O'Connor tells a story of when she almost threw in the towel.
"Six weeks before a competition, I cracked a rib at the gym. I couldn't breathe, I had to go to the hospital. I thought all my work was all for nothing.
"But my coach said, 'all is not lost'. I adjusted my training and food and workout in ways to avoid straining my rib, and I still won the overall competition for body fitness."
6 Start today
O'Connor sums up quite simply: "I don't believe in regret, but I do wish I had started sooner. We all start somewhere. Believe in yourself. Do you for you."
Tip o' The Communicator cap this week goes to Regina Brennan after her son, Patrick Brennan, introduced himself to me at Tuesday's Retail Excellence Ireland dinner, during which I facilitated a panel discussion on Brexit and the Budget.
"My mom reads your column regularly and always points out leadership lessons to me," he said. Yet another reason to value our mothers.Thank you, Regina.
- With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon
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