The Paralympic Games - Flourishing in an uncertain environment


The Paralympics are well underway in Rio and the Games have been fantastic so far. I was delighted to see the rowers dominate the regatta winning 3 golds and 1 bronze at the weekend. Despite early predictions of low ticket sales and subsequently poor attendance, it’s the second highest attended Paralympic Games in history (behind London in 2012).

Before the Opening Ceremony the Games had been overshadowed by a variety of disruptions which had bordered on chaos. With only 12% of tickets sold, organisers were forced to downsize the competition, which included the closing of venues and cutting services. Budgetary issues left up to 40 countries unsure as to whether they would be able to compete at all and Russia were given a total ban as a result of the drugs scandal from earlier in the year.

In spite of the numerous issues and uncertainties surrounding the Games, Team GB athletes have flourished and performed above expectations so far. And it’s not only just the British who are thriving, there's been an incredible 65 world records broken in the first 2 days of competition. The athletes have found a way to stay focused on their goal, stick to their own routines and attempt to “control the controllables” in this volatile environment.

When I trained alongside the Paralympic team I was always impressed by how tough and focused they were. They seemed to deal with conditions and situations that might distract the rest of us. It made me realise they had probably already had to deal with far tougher and more challenging situations in their lives which made them extremely resilient as athletes. The coping mechanisms they have developed to deal with their own personal trauma and setbacks in life will have given them the strength to face whatever challenges the Rio Games have thrown at them.

Uncertainty often surrounds us in our organisation on a daily basis and the key to flourish in these environments is to develop strategies to not only tolerate ambiguity but thrive in it. Learning from previous difficult experiences can help individuals to cope in an ever-changing environment and define our ability to sink or swim when the pressure is on.


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