WHAT QUESTION CAN YOU ASK?
Over the weekend I listened to a High Performance podcast episode that featured Dilbagh Gill, CEO of Mahindra Racing. I am not a racing fan myself so did not seek out this episode specifically but the High Performance podcast series offer a great opportunity to learn from someone who you may not ordinarily read about or engage with.
Amongst other general insights from his life, Dilbagh reflects on his frustration at how education systems often teach us to learn answers and not ask questions. I really enjoy this viewpoint as I think it holds value in every area of our lives.
He speaks about considering:
"What can I do to maximise today?"
When we encourage questioning and inquisitive minds, we are building problem solving and solution focused thinking. This pragmatic approach allows flexibility when faced with difficulties and is not just about how we deal with systems and processes; it allows for creative solutions, resilience building and an overall 'can do' mindset.
When we think that each situation has one solution or answer, if that option is not available it becomes a finite thinking pattern which can cause frustration and anger that closes our mind. If we can approach a situation with concepts of ideal situations as well as potential difficulties, combined with an open mind to be adaptable and flexible, we are giving ourselves far greater opportunities to succeed and overcome problems.
I also think there is value in this type of question as it shows an element of individual accountability for actions, energy contributed and outcomes gained. Dilbagh speaks about the value of doing something right the first time and whilst on the face of it, this can sound a bit 'perfectionist' in attitude - this isn't what I took from it.
When you combine the idea of maximising the day with doing it right first time, I hear this:
If you ask the right questions first and focus on giving your best to the task in hand then you will ultimately save time and maximise outcomes as you don't need to do it twice. This saved time means that you can then give your best time and energy to another project or task. This doesn't have to all be about work - if you achieve what you need to in your working day, it also brings the opportunity to have more time available to do what you love in your free time. If you know a task is complete and know you have given it your best, without the need to re-start and do it all again, then your mind is more likely to shut off and engage better in your personal life as well.
I want to then add 2 more quick key areas to this to bring the point together.
Ben Bergeron, an elite athlete coach and author, speaks about being a 'curious competitor' - a mindset that encourages the approach of doing the best with what you have available in that moment. It's not setting unrealistic expectations that ultimately give you space to punish yourself. For example, you cannot always be the best. It's impossible. What you can do is show up to each task and each problem or difficulty, with the intention and approach to give the best of what you have available. He suggests that being a 'curious competitor' is the ultimate mindset, where people seek out challenges because they know it helps them to become greater. For example - in sport - he would suggest that rather than missing a gym session because you don't feel at your overall best, that you should show up and give your best that you have available on that day. That these moments of showing up in the boring or uncomfortable moments is where you build the momentum of your success and hit targets. If you sat at home your trajectory and momentum does not improve. Obviously - this example is used as an overall concept to make the point. If you are legitimately too unwell to exercise and need rest then you don't force yourself to exercise. It's about knowing when not to stop just because it's easier rather than stopping because you need to.
Being a 'curious competitor' is a method of being inquisitive - it's not about competing with others all the time, it's a mindset approach that is about seeking and facing the difficult moments asking "what can I achieve here" to help you succeed and build resilience. By having increased resilience you are then improving your ability to overcome adversity.
The other additional concept is from World Cup winning rugby player Jonny Wilkinson who speaks about the value of being truly present. Focused solely in the moment - having a mind that is not occupied on multiple things at once or worrying about the past and the future. He speaks about his view that when he does the washing up he generally takes the same approach of doing it to the best of his ability, in the same way he would have engaged in his sporting career. This can seem slightly farfetched to compare the washing up to being an elite athlete on an international stage, but when you consider it as a mindset approach - it makes sense. Be present, be focused and do your best in the moment.
Bringing all 3 concepts together and asking a seemingly simple question of "What can I do to maximise today?" allows us to build our skill to:
Be present & focus on what we need to achieve today and today only. This improves concentration, recall and our overall mental health. We are worrying less and more focused. By increasing our mental health we improve our physical health including our sleep. Improved health and sleep increases our overall energy available. An analogy I suggest is like trying to get your computer to run at it's best speed when you have a tonne of different tabs open, all trying to download information - energy is split and reduced which ultimately means the outcome is no faster and ultimately far longer.
Be accountable to the 'I' - your part, your contribution and your input. Know what is your responsibility and know when to ask for help. Improving boundaries, awareness and creating opportunities to learn and grow.
Be inquisitive - ask questions, explore, be creative and open minded. Developing this approach will help your mind to naturally be solution focused. A 'can do' attitude helps you navigate whether you need to be the person completing the task, researching the options or utilising the wealth of knowledge around you. This attitude will ultimately enhance your confidence to face difficult situations as you know you can find a way through it - whether able to do it alone or needing the support of others.
We spend a lot of our daily lives - both personal and professional - in a reactive mindset that can leave us feeling out of control. Ask yourself the question above and take time to consider what really needs to be done today and how best to achieve that.
The solutions can involve multiple elements such as 'do not disturb' settings on phones and emails to complete a task, itemising your schedule in priority order or perhaps even factoring in more short breaks in your day to relieve tension and increase nutrition with appropriate hydration and energy.
Whatever approach you take, I hope you have a great week and do not hesitate to reach out if you want to discuss the above.
Director and Founder of Thrive Safe