By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Podcast.
Dylan Nadler is a former Team Captain of the Canadian National Taekwondo Team and a Top 40 world-ranked taekwondo fighter. Having experienced athletics at the highest levels, he now runs MindLock Mental Training to help athletes, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between have a positive and productive mindset.
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It All Comes Down to Your Mindset
For Dylan, one’s mindset is the final variable that dictates one’s performance. For instance, if you put two athletes in a match — and they have the same skill and physical stamina — the determining factor of who will be the winner is the mindset. Who is mentally tougher? Who can perform under pressure? Who can execute their game plan when times get rough?
Having strong mental wellbeing, however, is often underappreciated. And people aren’t focusing on it. When he was an active athlete, Dylan shares that he was never the strongest or fastest. It was his mental skills that allowed him to be as successful as he was.
With MindLock, he helps develop the mental side of the competition for high-performance athletes. But his business isn’t just confined to sportspeople; he also crosses over to entrepreneurs. Dylan notes that athletes and entrepreneurs are the same: They’re self-made, goal-oriented, disciplined, and focused. Having these parallelisms make it easier for him to work with both types of people.
Prioritising Your Mindset
Without having the right attitude and without being in the right headspace, you’re not going to be productive and efficient. This is why for Dylan, it’s important to prioritise taking care of your mental wellbeing.
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Nonetheless, many businesses tend to keep pushing happiness aside. Instead of prioritising it, many are caught up in hitting the numbers. In the process, their mental health takes the downfall. On the contrary, if you prioritise your happiness first and strengthen your mental pillars, you will be able to achieve your business goals better.
Everybody has different sources of happiness, but most of the time, it comes from gratitude. And when you’re able to take a step back and be appreciative of everything, you won’t see big problems as something big anymore. Back when he was still competing, Dylan shares that it’s something he wasn’t able to do. He would never really pat himself on the back because there’s always one competition after another. There’s always another event and another fight to train for. It was only when he started his business that he was able to look back and reflect on a lot of things.
With MindLock, he made a promise that he’d appreciate every small win — getting a new client, having a great interaction with someone, making an impact in someone’s day. Dylan believes that if he can appreciate these small wins, he can get to where he wants to be. And if he’s going to be successful, he might as well enjoy the small steps along the way. If there will be struggles, they won’t last long, and eventually, they’ll simply become stories that you get to tell other people.
One of the biggest things that Dylan gets his clients to do is to set micro-goals. When you set and achieve daily goals, you’ll get to hit everything on the line. Sometimes, people look too far ahead that they tend to forget that some of the most important things that can be achieved, can be done at the moment.
When you set mico-goals, you also get a sense of success every day. Even if you feel like you’re having a bad day, if you’ve checked off your goals for the day, you’ll feel a sense of relief.
Striving for the next big thing — for greatness — is amazing. However, you have to match that with actual hard work: What can you do today to achieve your goal? Having micro-goals also transcends from output to attitude. You should not neglect our feelings; instead, you should include them in your goal-setting. How do I need to feel today to make things happen?
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Preparing Yourself for the Day
Especially now that the world faces COVID-19, many people feel like they’re only going through the motions. To help you prepare for the day and have the right attitude, Dylan recommends doing a quick visualisation exercise.
Start your day by closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and visualising how you want to go through the different aspects of your day. You also have to incorporate as many senses as you can. This will allow you to properly put yourself in the mindset that you want to be while you’re doing your tasks.
Through visualisation, you will have a reference point to which you can compare what actually happened. You will have something to look back on and hold yourself accountable to — you’re not just going through the motions.
How Journaling Helps
Everybody has different sources of motivation to help them achieve their goal. If you want to keep track of things that go on throughout your day, journaling is beneficial. Because a journal builds up, you will have a heightened sense of self-awareness. And when you’re self-aware, you can reflect on different things. Whether you do it once a week or once a month, you’ll be able to look at trends — How many days do you consider as good days? How many are terrible? What made those days terrible? With a journal, you can break things down, collect data, document your progress, and connect the dots.
There are apps that can help you with that. Morning Pages, for instance, is an app that can analyse your mood depending on what you’ve written.
When it comes to the mental preparation of an entire organisation, Dylan points out the significance of empathy. As everybody is going through their unique situations, you have to treat them like human beings.
Don’t be afraid to get personal and start asking how your people are feeling. Workers (especially those loyal ones) tend to keep their personal problems to themselves because they don’t want to burden the company. However, on the contrary, personal struggles often manifest in someone’s work (e.g., he or she consistently shows up late in meetings). As a business owner and a team leader, it’s your job to make sure that your group is in the right headspace and they’re motivated.
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Even today, now that people seem to be disconnected because of lockdowns, you have the technology to use to check up on each other. You can learn more about each other even when you’re doing it from your own homes.
The first step to having a productive relationship is to treat your workers as family members. Understand what they’re going through and empathise with their problems.
How Do You Deal with Anxiety?
To train athletes and help them cope with anxiety, Dylan notes that building mental pillars is key. Through positive self-talk and visualisation, you can define what an optimal performance is for you. Knowing your goal, you can break down how you can achieve that during the training process. Think of it as reverse-engineering.
Identify what is it that stresses you out. Are you stressed because you’re underperforming? Or are you stressed about how people perceive you? Ask yourself questions and have someone else ask those questions to you as well. This way, you can really get to the root of the problem.
For Dylan, one thing that makes him confident — for instance, when facing the media and doing interviews — is knowing that nobody really cares. When he was in elementary and doing a presentation, he realised that the people in his class are not really judging him. They’re more worried about their own presentations. They’re caught up in their own anxieties. Seeing things from that lens has made him more confident and freer.
By becoming less anxious, you’re taking a big weight off your shoulders. This will allow you to be more focused on what you need to focus on.
Assessing Your Performance
At MindLock, every session ends with a worksheet or an activity — an assessment — that is then sent right away to their clients. However, there are also other ways to do it. For instance, as mentioned, you can use journaling to take the time to reflect on your own. It can be done every after a workday, a workweek, or every after a team meeting.
Another activity (which Dylan does for athletes) is listing down negative self-talk statements and translating them into something positive. For example, instead of saying “I’m nervous,” you can say, “I’m excited.” These are different terms for a feeling that shares the same bodily and physiological functions. If you change the label, you can change the way you interpret what you feel. After translating them into something more optimistic, Dylan also encourages his athletes to understand them. Once you have that awareness about your feelings and once you see them in a positive light, these negative statements will end up motivating you.
Image from MindLock on Instagram
Again, it comes down to visualising yourself and prioritising your mental space, as opposed to pushing it aside. Once you get to flip the script and mind your attitude first, amazing things will grow from there. This is in contrast to when you’re building your performance on a rocky foundation and simply hoping to get some satisfaction in the end.
To learn more about Dylan, check out his personal and MindLock’s Instagram pages. He also recently launched a podcast called Locked In with Dylan. The show, which is available on YouTube and other streaming platforms, features conversations with sports industry figures. And if you want your business to be successful, take his advice and put your happiness and mindset first.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed, you can listen here.