THE SECRET COPING STRATEGY THAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON WITH ELITE ATHLETES
I am lucky to be able to work with both athletes and executives in my line of work. I could have written the title of this blog and replaced athlete with executive. The topic of this week is something that high performers do very effectively, but it is also something that the rest of the world does as well.
I am talking about compartmentalization. Psychology Today defines compartmentalization as “a defense mechanism in which people mentally separate conflicting thoughts, emotions, or experiences to avoid the discomfort of contradiction”.
While compartmentalization can be taken too far and can have negative connotations, for the sake of our discussion today I am going to assume that it is being used to manage daily challenges effectively and without negative side effects.
HOW DO ATHLETES USE IT?
Motorsport is amazing, and there is a lot of passion involved. There is also a lot of inherent risk that those participating understand. For those outside the sport I often get comments like “those guys/girls must be crazy”, “that’s so dangerous”, “how do they do that”?
What I have learned is that people outside the industry that do not follow motorsport are trying to understand this ability to put yourself in harm’s way for something you love deeply.
Athletes face injury and certainly can lose their life competing. There are advances in safety measures both at the track level and in protective gear, but that does not make the risk 0. Understanding this and being able to go out and compete requires the ability to compartmentalize.
The athlete must put aside fear for personal injury or harm in order to compete. Additionally, if there has been an incident where another rider/driver has been injured, this requires the athlete to further compartmentalize in order to focus on the task at hand.
HOW DO EXECUTIVES USE IT?
This last year was a hectic one for most of us. If you were in a high-pressure position that only added to the stress you were experiencing elsewhere.
For senior leaders and executives, they use compartmentalization to manage all the things that are thrown at them daily. Expectations from spouse and kids, aging parents, balancing pressure at work, making decisions that might impact others (layoffs, hiring/firing, restructuring, budgets), conversations with the C Suite, etc.
Being able to be present in all of these areas of their lives and to be effective requires the ability to compartmentalize while focusing on each area. Sometimes having to put aside family matters that may be highly emotional to function highly while at work.
HOW DO YOU USE IT?
Many of the things mentioned above might not sound all that different from how you compartmentalize. That’s because it isn’t some special skill only available to elite athletes or executives. We all do it. Some of us are more adept than others.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t put aside your emotions during a highly charged time to focus on work. Everyone is different during times like this.
It is more important to realize where you are strong and to encourage yourself in those areas. Perhaps you discover that developing a routine and some structure for your workday helps you to focus better.
For some people having this structure and working on one task at a time helps them.
The good news is that you already compartmentalize automatically. It’s a natural defense mechanism or coping skill. I feel that my own ability to compartmentalize has improved over time a bit like a muscle. In a positive way.
If you want to discuss this further or have been considering working with me, click here to schedule your complimentary call now. I have a few spots left for private coaching. I look forward to speaking with you.