What Do The Olympics And Your Career Have In Common? Both Require Stamina. 3 Ways To Build Yours.
The Olympic games in Tokyo were a study in stamina in more than one way. Not only did the athletes marshal their physical and mental prowess time and again to rise to the top of their sports, but they also needed an extra boost of determination for this year’s 12-months-late, strangest-of-all, relatively empty, pandemic-era games. The stamina these athletes demonstrate is amazing. Tilly Kearns, a member of Australia’s Women’s Water Polo Team, describes how she started “trying to catch the coach’s eye in 2015” and, like everyone else, fought to keep her position throughout squad changes leading up to the games. All this while being in the pool at least 10 hours per week, in the gym almost as much, and being a student. Athletes learn early to develop stamina and get support from a variety of people and organisations, including the Minerva Network to maintain it.
While we tend to think of stamina in terms of sports, it’s also a key strength of people who have rewarding, long careers. Just as athletes can improve through hard work and focus, those of us eager to rise in our careers can build “stamina muscle” through specific exercises and habits. Here are three:
Don’t Over-Index on Rejection or Failure
You lose a job, get passed over for promotion, fail to make an important sale. We all have setbacks and moments of real disappointment in our careers. These missteps or missed opportunities don’t generally determine how we do in the long run, but how we respond to them can.
What not to do? Obsess about what went wrong. Negative rumination is a natural human tendency but it can damage your career because it saps stamina. Instead of replaying the rejection again and again, feel your disappointment, then do some “cognitive reappraising,” as in, find a new way to view the loss. “You look at how you’re appraising the situation, then see if you can reappraise it better,” says Glenn Geher, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the State University of New York, New Paltz. Another way to say this: learn to let go and move on. Looking forward is much more productive and fun than looking back.
If you fail to land a job, instead of thinking, “I’ll never succeed,” reappraise the situation by understanding key facts such as that another candidate was clearly more qualified for the position, or that you need to gain additional skills to secure a similar position in the future. You can develop your skills, in fact, and try again. Or you might realize that it was never the right role or company for you to begin with.
You should also appreciate your own successes and learn to share them with others. I often have to coach young people (especially young women) to recognize what they’ve already achieved. Prepping for job interviews, they’ll worry about experiences they haven’t had instead of highlighting what they have done. Young people in particular can have trouble connecting their experiences to the job they want. If you’ve played on a sports team, you have experience working in a group. If you’ve been a camp counselor or led a sorority, you have leadership know-how. If you’ve started a club or a charity effort, you’ve demonstrated initiative. Share high points from these experiences to help hiring managers see your strengths and understand why you’re right for the job.
Make Time for Self-Care
You’ve probably heard so much about self-care that it seems like something you can just skip; since everyone’s talking about it, there’s enough self-care going around without your active participation, right? Wrong. Self-care is a hot topic because research on physical and mental health consistently shows its value when it comes to sticking with projects and pursuits over time. This can include things like getting up to go to work, meeting clients and making decisions.
The importance of self-care became newly obvious to many during the pandemic. As lockdowns around the world kept people isolated from each other and unable to go on their usual recreational outings, stress, depression, lethargy and burnout rose.
Self-care means different things to different people. Exercise is key for many. Sleep matters for all. Some of the world’s most successful leaders talk about how important sleep is. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, told Thrive Global, “Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority.” Even startup founders focus on sleep. Philip Krim, CEO of the mattress startup Casper, has said that he aims for between seven and eight hours of sleep every night: “When I do, I’m at my best the next day. I’m more productive and focused”.
A 2020 metastudy published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science showed a correlation between poor sleep and loneliness. Socialising is also an important component of self-care, and getting enough sleep helps people better enjoy the social connections they have. Spending time in nature is also a form of self-care, as is doing creative projects, baking, reading. Figure out what makes you feel more energised and enthusiastic, and make sure to make time for that.
Remember that You Have Options
Feeling stuck in a boring job or trapped in a position you hate is a surefire stamina sapper. Chances are, you have more options than you realise. It’s up to you to remind yourself of this fact.
In today’s post-pandemic economy, opportunity is soaring in many sectors and places. While last year, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was the highest it had been since the 1940s, today the landscape has flipped completely. In July, US employment rose by 943,000 and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent. Similarly, Australia’s unemployment rate recently fell below 5 percent for the first time in 10 years.
Still skeptical? Try going on some “job dates” to see what’s out there and how marketable your skills are today. While a serious job hunt can be a full-time job, “job dating” is lighter and more fun. You can speak with companies who reach out to you or set up informational interviews with firms you find interesting. You’re just getting to know people (and companies and seeing if there are any great matches out there for you now or perhaps in the future). Seeing what’s out there helps you recognise that you are not stuck, a mind-shift that generates stamina.
Stamina is a career super power, and one that’s more important now than ever in this pandemic era. As we face new covid variants, new mask mandates and even new lockdowns in some places, just getting up and going to work can feel like an energy sapper. Practice these three stamina support behaviours to rise and thrive even during this difficult time.