Having been hooked on the recent World Athletics Championships, it has brought new thinking to some of my previous blogs and posts about what ‘winning or ‘winning through’ means. 


Some typical definitions of winning are:

‘Successful’ or ‘victorious’ which suggests a ‘champion’.

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If you asked Mo Farah, Usain Bolt or Christine Ohurougu what winning meant to them, it would have only been getting past the finishing line first and winning the gold medal. Their stunning performances also showed how much they were prepared to push themselves to win gold. Although they are all very different people with different egos, when it comes to a major championship they share a common goal of wanting gold for themselves, their country, their coaches and families and arguably their fans, maybe in this order? I believe it is also about showing the rest of the athletes that when it comes to crunch time who is the ‘the boss’ in their disciplines and dominating their events.

Why do some athletes, such as Christine Ohurougu only ever produce their best when it comes to the major championships? As much as they may want to win all the races they enter their focus is on the end goal of winning gold and every race along the way is part of that journey. This begs the question whether ‘winning’ is about winning all the time or when it matters? And if so when it matters to whom?

Managing Expectations

 Managing Expectations

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Even the best football teams are likely to lose matches throughout a long season they are expected to win. However, it is the same teams who are invariably in the
 mix when it matters. This suggests a strong mindset, steely determination, confidence, self-belief and resilience are absolutely key ingredients.

Maybe winning is all about ‘delivering’, which suggests managing expectations – yours and that of others.  In order to manage expectations, you must first have a goal in mind and focus on this with great clarity. 

Goal Setting

Goal Setting

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Winning could therefore be described as delivering against a predetermined goal. For some of our athletes, such as Adam Gemili, ‘winning’ was a goal to make the 200 metres final and doing his very best to try and win a medal. And what a brave effort he made. He is young and has many great years ahead of him to realise his true potential. He displayed all of the attributes highlighted and came away without any medal. Was he happy? Of course, as he had won through to the final of a major championship, raced with the best in the world and he had exceeded many people’s expectations, therefore he had ‘delivered’ against his goal and in the eyes of the public, media, fellow athletes and his coach!

Likewise Daniel Evans, the British number 3 tennis player who, after having to endure three qualifying rounds, had two fantastic wins to reach the 3rd round of the US Open. This was certainly winning for him, as exceeding all expectations. His next target is to get into the top 100 world rankings, so he will get automatic qualification into Grand Slam events. This will be then be winning for Daniel for the present but what about the future?

Winning Within Rules

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For the GB men’s and women’s  4x 100 meters relay teams, winning would have been a goal to realistically achieve bronze medal positions as the Jamaicans and Americans were clearly way ahead of the pack. Isn’t it ironic that the women finished 4th and lodged an appeal and ended up being awarded the bronze medal and the men, who ran a ‘fantastic race’ but clearly had an ‘illegal’ changeover were then stripped of their bronze medal, which their time and effort richly deserved. However, this would have been an injustice, if the rules were to be followed to the letter. Rules are all part of the winning process, just as with interviews!

It was evident our four men, deep down, knew they should be disqualified and were doing everything possible to focus on the positive of crossing the line in third place and defer any thoughts away from anything other than their bronze medal. However, as much as our patriotism would want us to win another medal, this would have been cheating, wouldn’t it?  

So, I wonder at the conflicting emotions today of the men and women involved. Do the women feel they really achieved a bronze medal? Were they happy to accept this at face value or that they had been given a second chance?

We must empathise with the men who must feel devastated about having their bronze medal taken away but equally, how would the men have felt if they kept their bronze medal? Would they feel they really ‘won’ or would they feel they had ‘cheated’?  Sport has thrown up this dilemma so many times with the infamous Maradonna ‘hand of God’ incident when Argentina beat England in the World Cup, being one of the most famous. One could argue that whatever has been deemed the result by the appropriate officials has to be accepted in which case you cannot overlook the fact that, yet again, the GB 100 meters male relay team failed to deliver as they didn’t get the baton round safely.

Mindset and Limiting Beliefs


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Is this another issue of mindset or limiting beliefs, feeling they will fail or trying too hard, panicking and putting themselves under too much pressure, as history keeps repeating itself? When Usain Bolt was disqualified from the previous World Championships 100 meters, for a false start, it was never going to happen again, was it? So, what does this tell us about his mindset and strength of character? Does he feel under pressure being the best sprinter on the planet or does he thrive on using his undeniable reputation to intimidate others?

Isn’t it interesting how some people say that winning doesn’t matter as it is the taking part that counts? Maybe this is true if delivering is just about turning up, if this is a big step forward for someone. However, for most people if you have a set goal in mind for any situation, this will never be enough as you would surely want to deliver or exceed expectations against your goal to feel a sense of achievement, wouldn’t you? Just ask Andy Murray or Serena Williams, as retaining their US Open tennis titles will be the only thing on their minds for this weekend. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to ‘just turn up’ for your big interview or client meeting would you?

So, what does winning mean for your career or life and how determined are you to achieve this? Back to mindset and belief!