November 4, 2015

“To those who say women aren’t strong enough: Get stuffed.” What an inspiration! The Melbourne Cup has been run with history-making results: The part-owners of the horse were six mates who banded together to buy their share (and didn’t tell their wives for 6 months!); the strapper has Down Syndrome; the jockey is female; the horse started with 101:1 odds. With so much against them, who could possibly have predicted success?

Michelle Payne, the history-making jockey, overcame some huge obstacles. A near fatal race fall that broke her back and fractured her skull, losing her sister as a result of a race fall, and surviving (and thriving) in a very chauvinistic industry where people actively work against women have been major accomplishments.

Michelle Payne has exhibited the perseverance, self-belief, mental toughness, and probably optimism – all mixed in with a healthy dose of stubbornness, perhaps? – to allow her to achieve at the highest level. It’s important to keep in mind that she was successful long before winning the Melbourne Cup; the only difference now being that everyone knows about it. She went from anonymity beyond the racing industry, to being the most recognised face of the week.

What can we all learn from Michelle Payne?

It seems pretty simple. Have confidence in whatever you’re aiming to achieve. Your goal might take a day, a month, a year or longer, so confidence that you’re on the right track is essential. This confidence and belief helps you plan your actions, but perhaps more importantly it helps you get through the inevitable ‘down’ times that occur. Keep plugging away.

Believe that you can do it. There is no reason that you cannot achieve your goals. Start by setting small goals so that you can achieve them and build confidence. If weight loss is a goal, setting an ultimate goal may not be appropriate for you (just like Michelle Payne probably didn’t set the Melbourne Cup as a goal at the start of her career). Set a goal to follow your eating plan exactly for one day. Once you’ve had success at that, you’ll be more confident in setting a larger goal. Over time, your goals will see you achieving exactly what it is that you want.

Develop mental toughness. There will definitely be set-backs along the way. Accepting this fact at the start allows you to understand that set-backs are not an indication that you’ve failed. You don’t need to feel guilt or shame or regret. Understanding that set-backs are normal makes it easier to just get back on track after they occur. A set-back does not mean that you need to give up.

Being optimistic is essential. This will come about if you truly believe that your actions will work, you feel confident in your ability, and you’re tough enough to get past set-backs. Optimism can help you look for the positives rather than focusing on the negatives, and most people know that you get what you focus on.

While Michelle Payne’s public success may seem like something only for the ‘special’ people, the reality is that success is within reach for all of us. That success may be on a small or large scale, over a short or long time-frame, and may be public or private, but the right mindset will enable it to happen.