3. Start by making strategic choices
A good January task is to write the long list of your goals and targets and then edit it right down. It’s every bit as important to decide what you’re not going to do as what you are. Start off with a poor strategy, or too many strategies, and no matter how good your tactics are, you will lose. Smart tactics might mask a poor strategy, but you will lose in the end.
If your team is full of bruisers, don’t try and play like Fiji; if you are all racing greyhounds, don’t try to arm-wrestle South Africa.
When Martin Johnson’s World Cup-winning team began they wanted to score a hundred tries a game. Entertainment ensued but so did some key defeats. We never lost the willingness to try and play, but we got much smarter about learning the many different ways you can win. We made strategic choices, we removed things from our game that weren’t suited to a wet or windy day. We knew how to approach a wet night day in Sydney, because we had learnt and lost on a wet day at Murrayfield! We focused on fewer bigger things.
4. Prepare in your own way
Work out what works for you in your pre-game rituals and protocols. There is no one-size-fits-all here. With time you begin to understand what works for you. You figure out how to give yourself the best chance of starting well.
The key is to make sure your own style of warm-up and preparation does not affect others. Try to enhance, support and positively contribute to others, but your primary focus must be on delivering yourself ready to perform. We must never belittle, distract, judge. What may be perfect for you is completely wrong for others.
I needed my lucky pants, lucky socks, lucky T-shirt – it’s a wonder I ever made it out on the field. I wanted music, laughter, smiles and some chat to lighten the mood. But only with those on a similar wavelength.
Then there were the frowners, the monosyllabic grunters, the deep introverted types who went deep into their souls to dig out the performance that was required. No music or smiles for them. You need to do whatever you need to get yourself ready for the starting gun.
5. Don’t set yourself up to fail
This part of the year is often characterised by New Year’s resolutions and commitments to new fitness and health regimes. These are noble intentions but it’s important to set realistic goals, to build your own confidence by meeting expectations rather than starting the year by falling short.
Elite performers think about their own “self care”, and exercise “proper selfishness” by making sure that they nurture and invest in their own energy. A good leader knows that they cannot possibly put positive energy into others if they are not looking after their own energy.
Your instincts might tell you to train more, train harder, put in more rugby sessions, more classroom sessions, more gym sessions. But more might just be less. Take the time to “Reset. Pause. and Breathe”.
Olympic athletes think in four-year cycles. They know when they will need to be at their best, and so they create peaks and troughs in their schedules to deliver themselves in the best possible shape at the right moment. Jones had different targets for different games two years ahead of Tokyo. This may seem inexplicable for the pundit or the fan, but it was razor-sharp and crystal-clear for the coaches and players.
Elite athletes understand that they need to bake time into their schedules for rest, review and recovery, so try thinking of your year like that. When are you going to need to be at your absolute best? What are you going to do to help deliver yourself fresh in body, mind and soul? What will your self-care regime be so that you are giving yourself a fighting chance of being fit and ready to perform?
The job at hand at this time of year is simply to start well. That is the first hill that needs to be climbed. Just put one foot in front of another and start moving forward. With that done, we can begin preparing for chapter two.
- For this series Will Greenwood is collaborating with Ben Fennell, founder and CEO of the Growth House: wwwthegrowthhouse.co.uk, @FennellB