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Soul-searching…..the results are in!

Plato, who knew a thing or two, once said “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself.” and I have stared defeat in the eyes for years. But last year I hit the winner assisted by a fabulous team. I can now look forward to the remaining games I have to play in the season (that is my life) with a positive attitude although (or perhaps because) the future is uncertain.

Many of my team have been on my pitch with me for years but I have had a couple of new signings and a fantastic bench to call on too. All from what I call my ‘personal board.’

To continue the football analogy, there have been many career highlights, for example, the arrival of Jessica, Harry – my children – and Fred – my dog – who have become stalwarts for me and the Braid family. But I knew I was becoming stale, losing my form and I didn’t know what to do about it, although I did recognise that things needed to change.

Part of my loss of form was because I was carrying two psychological problems. First (I now realise) was that I had become emotionally frozen – I was operating between very narrow tramlines and wasn’t free or able to express the full range of my emotions. The second problem was that I had what I now know to be cognitive dissonance (thanks to a team member). A continual restlessness in my mind. White noise that would always be there, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet but always, always there.

The dissonance started to go away when I made my debut on a London stage in July. I was a storyteller at a OneTrackMinds show at the Riverside Theatre (later reprised at Wilton’s Music Hall). My story was about my family, particularly my father and mother (AKA Arthur and The Chief) and that day I was in flow, I could have been anywhere and I left the stage with a strange sense of calmness.

A major reason for my frozen mind was because I was petrified of retirement, letting go of what I believed to be my purpose, DOCIAsport. I feared retiring would be like stepping off a cliff into a dark abyss of relative nothingness. And yet I knew that continuing to work 5 days a week wasn’t really an option as I was completely wiped out by the weekend. I also knew I wasn’t mentally ill, but I was definitely not mentally well. Or as well as I could be. I knew I couldn’t make the necessary changes on my own and I needed help.

This is where the new signing to my team came in. There are some people I have met in my life that I have known immediately that I have met them for a reason. In this case, when I first met Richard Husseiny, about 2 or 3 years ago, I knew straight away that he was in that category, but the reason wasn’t immediately obvious. I knew of his work, Men Behind Sport, and I guess it was because I saw myself as a man behind sport I reached out to him.

Richard has helped me define my purpose and clearly define what my values are and how well (or not) I was meeting them. With purpose and values aligned and the dissonance finally gone I was able to unfreeze my emotions and rid myself of the dissonance. With a deeper sense of inner peace and calmness I was finally able to reach and find my soul.

I’m delighted to say that Richard and I have become firm friends, lifetime friends, and he will be an automatic on my team sheet for the rest of my ‘season.’ One of the reasons I have been able to get to this hard-fought place is because he created a safe space for us both to talk and listen to each other. I was delighted when he asked if I’d be a guest on his ‘Untapped Potential’ podcast and of course I accepted so one of our conversations can be shared.

The sports sector is a brilliant place to work, but for me, especially working in a high performance environment as I did, it can also be suffocating and as a man of limited sporting talent (good but never great)  I suffered from imposter syndrome and a massive need to prove myself. This caused my breakdown in 2017 and I thought I’d recovered completely and not been defined by that mental illness. But maybe I too therefore had ‘untapped potential’ that I haven’t fulfilled – yet. The podcast of our conversation is released on Tuesday 19th March.
Untapped Potential (menbehindsport.com)

I hope you will give it a listen and I hope even more that it might just help someone recognise a need to change and not fear the future. Before it’s too late.

Take and give care.