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The Problems With The Labels of "World Class" Coach: How To Reassess Your "Success"

identity self-awareness Mar 23, 2023

You'll know by now that I'm very open about how I struggled so hard to prove myself and my "success" when I was coaching in Olympic sport.

I did this because my definition of a great coach was so skewed towards results, the status of prestigious jobs and seniority.

I'd assigned such value and meaning to be able to spout off the latest research or offer evidence to tell "my" athletes what they should and should be doing.

Yet these were areas I felt I always fell short of, which played perfectly into my, unknown at the time, low self-esteem.

Little did I know at the time that it didn't matter what role I was in or what I knew until I became aware of looking at myself as a man and the places I needed to heal.


The Achievement Feedback Loop in Performance Sport

Having a high drive to self-improve that is fueled by rock-bottom self-esteem can take you very far in your career because you’re coupling a sense of inferiority with a relentless pursuit of achievement.

This happens due to the feedback loop that's been rewarding you for playing the game and burying your head to this fact.

The badge on your chest, the achievements of "your" athletes, the recognition from your peers, the LinkedIn in title, the boost to ego when you say what you do to people you meet.

Simply put you aren’t incentivised to do otherwise, despite the hours you do, the sacrifices you make, and the typically low salary.

It’s one thing to be self-aware of this, it's another thing completely to care about it enough to make changes.

Knowing is half the battle, it's what you do about it that truly counts.


Understanding Self

The beauty of life is that we are all fallible and flawed in some way. I believe that is part of the reason why we feel the need to make our mark in our career so loud that everyone hears it. 

Because we are looking to make up for those parts of us that have been unavoidably bumped by life. We just haven't been given a road map to understanding how we manage those bumps.

I sense among many performance staff, and certainly, with my own journey, the magnitude of unhappiness the men behind sport experience is down to low self-esteem and looking outside for validation.

At the core level validation provides acceptance, belonging and safety. Maybe the "Better Never Stops" motto of the London 2012 Olympic Games is us lost on the roundabout of trying to soothe or fill those deeper parts of us. Yet we aren't aware that we're pouring water into a colander instead of a glass. 

Beginning the journey towards understanding self is something we all will come to at some point in our lives. The only difference is based on what will be the catalyst to initiate that journey. 

As you may know, for me it was grief that broke me down to open me up. I can safely say these past 8 years have been a powerful rollercoaster. Yet I wouldn't ever choose to go back to my old unaware self. This journey is profound and quite possibly the real path to life that continues to unfold, challenge and liberate me.

Most success stories are borne out of pain. They are what drive us to understand life, to keep learning and growing. Leverage your pain so it becomes a source of strength rather than a limitation.


Markers of Success

A common discussion point in the conversations I've had has been what appears to be a separation between success and happiness. Of course, each of these is highly subjective, yet without true reflection, there seems to be a default aim to focus on what other people perceive as success.

Whether that's in academic circles, practitioner peer groups, or from the social validation gained. Happiness is assumed will occur when "success" is achieved. Yet it rarely does work out that way - for the men I work with, nor did it for me in my career.

"I had a tough time after athletes I supported achieved Olympic success. I felt directionless and aimless, in my mind I thought that having an athlete winning gold was the pinnacle of what we do and why we do it - but after they had won I was waiting for some kind of feeling of achievement to hit and it just never did.”


What marker of success are you aiming for in your career?

  1. Firstly, if you can’t define that clearly then you’re in for a rough ride.
  2. Secondly, if you can then is that coming from you? Or is it defined by the pressure to achieve the markers of what people perceive as you being successful e.g. publishing a load of papers.


Objectively Assess Your Roles and Identities

"I knew I needed to make myself bulletproof and secure, but that meant stepping away from everything again. I was offered a private gig, but everyone recognises me for being involved in professional sport or I think that's the case, but no-one actually really gives a f**k now I've come to realise it. Most of it has been my own self pressure and low self worth, I've felt that the place can't function without me but the reality is they'd get rid of me in a heartbeat and I've felt everything I've been doing is unbelievable and everyone else is wrong. I never switch off because I've seen it as my life and not what it is which is just a job - no one asks me to do that by the way, I've put that expectation on myself."

Personal identity is a constellation of beliefs, feelings, images, and rules — operating largely outside of conscious awareness — that interprets sensations, constructs new explanations, and directs behaviour.

These speak to the broad concerns of identity (Who am I?), direction (Where am I going?), and purpose (Why am I going there?).

Examples — Father, partner, coach, leader, friend, athlete, son, challenger, lover e.t.c

  1. What roles/identities do you hold that appear and shape your life?
  2. Which of these roles/identities limits you?
  3. How do each of these roles/identities limit you?
  4. How do they shape your decisions; What do they have you do or not do?
  5. What would you do if you let go of that role/identity?


The work I do with men addresses very practical steps to allow them to understand themselves on a deeper level. As this journey continues to unfold, I'll share more and more practices with you to help you accelerate your process of understanding yourself through inner work.

If you are interested in working with me you can learn more about The Lost to Liberated Blueprint and book a call here.

In Kindness,


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