Guest Speaker Series – Jack Green – Olympic Hurdler
“I’m 29. I could make the Olympic Games if I want to, but most empowering is I choose not to. I do what’s right for me, not what’s expected of me.”
Olympic athlete, Jack Green, began his sporting journey at the University of Bath, where he studied sports performance. He then went on to represent team GB at the 2012 summer olympics in London and 2016 summer olympics at Rio de Janeiro, taking part in the 400m distance race, hurdles and 4 400m relays. He is now Head of Performance at Champion Health UK, as well as a Double Olympian. We had the chance to listen to Jack’s story, as he shared with us his journey from the starting line to mental health.
Despite Jack’s great achievements in the sports world, he suffered from high anxiety and a negative self-image. It’s all about perspective, he reminds us and seeing challenges as opportunities to develop and learn. Though this is difficult to do at the moment, the payoff is worth it.
Jack is an advocate for positive mental health and is an ambassador for mental health and wellbeing app Calm. Often we burn the candles at both ends and put external factors ahead of our internal wellbeing, but if you’re striving personally then you’re performing well professionally – it’s all intertwined.
A childhood dream come true
Jack remeniscies on how he had no interest in sports until he was 7 years old when he realised he was good at it. He wrote stories of how he was going to win the Olympics. When Jack was 14 he solely focused on running and by 18 years old his goals manifested and he became a sponsor for Nike. Though this sounds like smooth sailing, Jack focused heavily on external validation and chasing what was next. He went from being ranked the 105th best in the world to 16th and wondered what’s stopping him from being number one.
Fear and expectations
Jack’s dreams were becoming reality and understandably, Jack felt fearful due to the extremely high expectations of everyone around him. This brought up questions like what would happen if it goes wrong? External validation became his motivation and with the rise of social media abuse and millions at home watching sporting events it became easy for online abuse. It’s important to remember that no one hurts more than the person directly involved and the abuse the three England players received at the Euro final game hit home for him.
A fear of failure is a fear of learning and every time you get something wrong it is an opportunity to ask yourself why did that happen and to seek learning opportunities. Take all you can from each experience and develop quickly.
Previously Jack didn’t believe mental health existed, especially for someone like him who seemingly had everything. To address his mental health he tried to make a change through external factors like buying a car and house that he couldn’t afford. He went to Qatar and reached the point where he didn’t want to live. Jack came to the realisation that he struggled with anxiety and depression when he was young, but he paved over the cracks. In reality he was already struggling and if you put that much pressure on a young person they will crack.
At 21 he left sports and made the decision to take himself out of the high pressure situation and actively manage his mental health instead of running away from it. During this time Jack went through struggles. He had no money, slept on a sofa and used alcohol to self medicate, but he also funded himself and became his own coach. Though it was a struggle he got a handle on his mental health and once he took away the pressure he allowed himself to perform. Next chapter? Commonwealth games.
Stay in your lane
Jack went 3 months early to prepare for the Commonwealth Games in Australia and finished 4th. He missed 3rd place by 400th of a second, but it was the first time he celebrated because he knew he did his best. We often overthink and worry about things we can’t control and compare ourselves with others. Here’s your reminder: stay in your lane – you can’t do anything about other people racing – all you can do is control what’s going on in your lane and that is why Jack celebrated coming forth, because he couldn’t do anything about others, but he focused on his own lane and coming fourth was good enough for him.
When to get help
It took Jack 6 years between going public about mental health and finally getting help. Sometimes if the issue is only hurting us we are less likely to reach out for help, but Jack found once his calm and collective mask slipped away and it affected others around him it pushed him to take the leap and get help.
It’s said that everyone can benefit from speaking to a therapist. They act as an objective soundboard and help us work through things that we’re struggling with. Jack’s therapist asked him a question: “why go back?” Jack didn’t have a good enough reason to return to the sport, so instead decided to retire from the sport at 28. Rest and recovery is all that is spoken about in sports and that means wellbeing and taking care of yourself, and for Jack the best thing he could do for his wellbeing was to walk away.
Running through Kent vs running the Olympic tracks
When Jack was 7 years old he ran down the grassy tracks of Kent and when he was 20 he ran as fast as he could at the Olympics. The pressure the Olympics has on the shoulders of its contestants is colossal. A tip Jack offers for stressful situations is acknowledging that the act never changed – the environment changed. There’s a lot more eyes on you, the stakes are higher and a lot is dependent on your performance, but this pressure can stagger performance. Jack now tries to carry forth the same performance level despite the environment change.
Like many of us Jack realised he was attached to the outcomes of his experiences and how he performed dictated his emotions. He changed his measurement objectives and measured his effort instead. All we can do is give 100 percent and work on positive self talk. For the first time people want meaning in the workplace. Before it used to be about money, but now people need to be fueled by passion. Being good at something doesn’t get you through the tough times. Instead it’s your reason behind your actions.
Daily Habits for good mental health
Mental health practices are individual to the person, but are some you could try:
- Mindfulness – staying present in the moment and focusing on what you are doing.
- Daily to-do list – you will get a sense of achievement from a completed to-do list and the list can vary depending on what you can manage for the day. It can even include taking the dog for a walk and having breakfast, because when you feel down the everyday activities become more challenging. When you feel like you haven’t gotten much done you can look at the list and recognise all that you have done.
- Identity chargers and triggers – what leaves you feeling overwhelmed and what makes you feel good. What helps Jack is going for a run and being social. Do more of what charges you and less of your triggers.
Sales, sports and mindset
The sales and athlete mindset are very similar and very intense. There are lots of wins, but you are constantly trying to better yourself and though the big wins are big, they’re addictive. Having the mindset to be consistent is beneficial.
The most difficult thing is that there is always more to do. You can spend an extra 2 hours working and not spend time with your family, but what is the cost and value of constantly doing that. This deal may gain you more money, but it’s taken time away from you and affects how well you function the next day – it’s weighing up whether that’s worth it. Living in the moment is great, but we’re going to be working for a long time. We need to have a healthy mindset and not burn out.
- If you’re striving personally then you’re performing well professionally – it’s all intertwined.
- Stay in your lane – you can’t do anything about other people racing – all you can do is control what’s going on in your lane.
- Being good at something doesn’t get you through the tough times. Instead it’s the reason behind your actions.
- Living in the moment is great, but we’re going to be working for a long time. We need to have a healthy mindset and not burn out.
Ready to talk? Get in touch today