What would you like to change?
How many of you stayed in the cool and watched the Common Wealth Games earlier this month? England finished with a record 176 medals – 57 of them gold – at Birmingham 2022. An amazing achievement and a fantastic event hosted by the city.
One of the reasons I’ve been watching is that my eldest son Charlie had a ceremonial role in three of the events – he was raising the silver medal flags for the Women’s Marathon, the Basketball and the Beach Volley Ball. However we quickly realised that you never really see the ‘flag puller upper’ or very rarely and only the men’s volleyball ceremony was actually on TV. Thank goodness for IPlayer.
Women’s Volley Ball – Charlie is on the far left, RAF
However watching the events made me realise the difference between winning and coming second, or even coming in last place is often just a matter of seconds, sometimes milliseconds! So how do these elite athletes increase their chances of winning and making a fraction of a second difference in their performance?
It’s all about marginal gain
This concept was devised by Dave Brailsford, the performance director of British cycling in 2003. He believed that if the team could make 1% improvements in different aspects of cycling, the athletes could significantly improve results. And they did!
These improvements incorporated every part of the athletes lives, from physical fitness and race tactics to nutrition and even sleep. Everyone was involved from the cyclists to the coaches to the team bus drivers. Everyone being aware of the what the cyclists were trying to achieve.
So how can we bring that concept into our everyday lives, our own self care and our mental health?
When we want to make a change in our lives, we often think it has to be something monumental to make a difference. And this can be the one thing that trips us up. The changes are so vast and daunting that we can’t sustain them and we give up.
Instead think of SMALL changes that over time will have that cumulative result.
Here are 20 ideas – don’t do them all!
Pick one or two that you can start incorporating into your day to start making some marginal gains:
1. Go to bed 30 mins earlier.
2. Put down your devices an hour before you go to bed.
3. Charge your phone downstairs at night time.
4. When your alarm goes off, get out of bed rather than pressing snooze.
5. Make your bed as soon as you are up.
6. As soon as you are dressed, make a drink and go outside for 10 minutes to get an early morning dose of Vitamin D and set your circadian clock for the day.
7. Cut down your sugar by a quarter of a teaspoon in your tea or coffee.
8. Make a to do list every day.
9. Set a timer for 20 mins when you start a task you dislike.
10. Each time you go upstairs, take something up with you – never waste a journey.
11. When you get in the car, listen to an inspiring podcast as you drive.
12. If someone asks you to do something, and you are too busy or you need to stay focused learn to say “I’m really sorry, I would love to but I can’t this time.”
13. When you sit down for a meal or spend time with your friends or family, put your phone away.
14. Get up and move during the day – walk to the end of the garden, or around the block every few hours.
15. Start to introduce up to 30 different plants (fruit, veg, pulses, legumes, nut, herbs and spices) a week into your diet to improve your gut biome and your mental health.
16. Drink one more glass of water a day.
17. Do some stretching exercises whilst the kettle is boiling.
18. Declutter one drawer or cupboard a week.
19. Contact someone you’ve lost touch with, or arrange to see a friend / or catch up once a week.
20. At the end of the day make a list of all things you have achieved / what has gone well / what you have enjoyed.
lesson two – practise, practise, practise
There was something I noticed from Charlie’s time in Birmingham – he was there for over 3 weeks in order to practise. (I did ask how long does it take to learn to pull a flag up??). But when I watched how they did it – it was all with military precision. Everything in unison and perfectly timed. Even if no-one ever really sees the ‘flag puller upper’.
The lesson I take from that is even something relatively simple needs practise and even more practise so it becomes automatic, seamless, easy and second nature.
Start SMALL but think BIG!
Let me know what small change you will make.