Knowing the Triumph of High Achievement

Posted in front of me in my office, is a printed image of Theodore Roosevelt’s often-quoted phrase about the ‘man in the arena’.  For those of you who have not yet had the good fortune of reading this quote, this is how it goes:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” 

What is holding you back?

When working with life and executive coaching clients, there is always a perceived block to the client’s progress, which is why they come to me for support.  There is either something stopping them from stepping into their desired arena, or worst case, there is something preventing them from seeing what their arena even is.  In the latter case, these clients have a sense of ‘there must be something better out there for me’ but they are not yet sure of what it is.  In essence, they have not yet pinpointed the arena into which they would like to propel themselves at some yet unidentified point in the future.

The first obstacle then, is facing this ‘inner critic’ that we encounter in our day to day lives.  We all know who this is.  It’s that little voice in the head that stops you in your tracks, just right about when you may be feeling hopeful and maybe even a little bit brave.  It’s that voice that says ‘Hang on a minute!  Who do you think you are?!  This can never work!!  ABORT MISSION!!’, and this is where our work begins.

There are of course, ‘outer critics’ that we may encounter along the way which can hinder our progress in one way or another.  However, I find that in all cases, once that inner critic is conquered, the outer ones are far easier to manage.

Finding your ‘Arena’

Admittedly, the idea of being ‘marred by dust and sweat and blood’ may not sound like an exciting prospect to many.  However, the essential first step before any sweat and blood is shed is to identify the individual’s most preferred ‘arena’, to even dip a toe into as a starting point.  During the coaching process, I engage the client on this clarity seeking mission using a wide variety of tools from my toolkit.  These tools are all designed and utilised to firstly help the individual to gain clarity about their personal and career-related goals.  I.e. what is their goal, really?  Using NLP and humanistic change practises such as multiple brain integrated techniques, I invite the client on a wonderful journey of exploration.  During the coaching process we eventually find our way into seeing, feeling and hearing about their innermost desires, dreams and wants.  The aim of the process therefore, is to bring the client safely to a place internally, where they can at least be honest with themselves about just what it is that they really, truly deeply want to achieve in their life.

Let’s talk about dust and sweat and blood

The old adage ‘but what if I fail’ is of course a genuine concern when individuals begin to step into their ‘arena’ and bring about the changes that they have sought after for many years.  To this, we begin to develop strategies for minimising ‘interruptions’ i.e. the inner critic and dissolving their hold over our chances of success, or otherwise.

On the subject of success, I find it extremely useful to help clients to find a realistic definition of ‘success’ which can help to make any movement towards and finally, into their chosen ‘arena’ feel like something to really celebrate.  And that’s because it really is something to celebrate!  Ditching old, tired limiting beliefs and moving more towards an ‘arena’ that once seemed so unachievable that a person shoved their dream to the back of their mind.  What’s not to celebrate?

And there is where the journey flourishes.  Yes, there may be blood and sweat and even tears.  There may be arenas that are tested out only to be replaced by other more suitable and more inviting ones along the way.

I find that the main change happens when the person steps into their arena for the very first time.  This can be in many shapes and forms – for example, putting a CV together after being in the one job for 15 years, applying for jobs and finally getting an interview!  Or, contacting that public speaking group and arranging to join in a virtual public speaking session for fun!  Or how about getting to a place where you are putting your phone away at night so that you can get up one hour earlier and give yourself the gift of that morning routine that has evaded you for so long?  The list goes on.

Daring Greatly

As we redefine ‘success’ we become braver, more confident and more energised about our goals.  When we see ourselves firstly making challenging first steps towards our goals and then see these tasks become easier over time, we feel the euphoria or at least self-satisfaction that comes with ‘daring greatly’.  You see, I think it’s a case of redefining success and looking at what it means to dare greatly in our daily lives.  If you are like me, you may have somewhere in the back of your mind that Theodore Roosevelt was referring to people who go out and change the world in some magnanimous type of way.  And who knows, maybe he was.  However, for me, when I read this quote, I think quite the opposite.  I reflect on how, when I change my ‘inner world’ my ‘outer world’ changes.  I.e. when I bring these little inner critics out into the proverbial ‘light’ and give them a seat at the table, I get to decide if these are the types of guests that I would like to have hang around for a while longer, or whether I would like to thank them for being there but ask them to get their coats and leave, for good!

Knowing the triumph of high achievement

For all of you recovering perfectionists out there, I can totally identify with your response to the phrase ‘high achievement’.  If it’s not going to be an overwhelming success, why bother even starting, right? This is where you are wrong, wrong, oh so very wrong! It is time for us to look at what ‘high achievement’ means in our lives.  If I haven’t exercised in five years, then going for a 15-minute walk today might be an example of high achievement for me, given the arena I’m moving into.  Or, if I’ve been in the same role since, I started my career, then reaching out and contacting a coach to help me make decisions about the next phase of my career could be a huge achievement in this particular 24-hour period!  What is it that you would like to move towards?  What would make you feel good today if you made one tiny little baby step towards it, rather than another step farther away?

Would it be a good time to enlist the support of a coach to help you to gain clarity in relation to your life or career goals?  It is time to have your face marred, even just a little, with dust and sweat and blood?

Contact me today – why wait?  I offer a free consultation – after which you and I decide on the best way forward, together.

Denise O’Brien is a QQI certified life and executive coach, NLP Practitioner and a certified mBIT (multiple brain integration techniques) coach.  Denise is also studying towards her ICF ACC credentials under the supervision of a master certified coach at present.  For all enquires please DM here or use the contact us button on our website.

O’Brien Learning Solutions – ‘Because change matters’



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