Whether in sport or at work we all face different barriers to reaching our full potential. But rather than letting them hold you back, how do you overcome them? We spoke to 7-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockcroft about her barrier-breaking mindset and how she continues to stay set on her course when challenges arise. 

Changing the narrative around your challenge 

When you’re at a disadvantage, it’s easy to slip into a state of self-pity. And whilst this may be valid, this mindset ultimately serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you resign yourself to not having the ability to overcome your challenge, it’s difficult to muster the energy to drive against it.

 “Instantly a lot of disabled people around the world are being told, you can’t do this. And it’s such a negative way to look at life.”, says Hannah. But she completely broke the expectations of the doctors who, after two cardiac arrests and multiple areas of brain damage at birth, said that she would likely not talk, walk or live an independent life. As a professional athlete, Hannah travels the world independently, is a public speaker and can walk short distances. And of course, this has taken a lot of hard work. From both Hannah, health professionals and the support of her loved ones. But what it shows to all of us is that anything is truly possible if you commit yourself to it.

Change your narrative
  • Don’t subscribe yourself to other people's expectations.
  • Surround yourself with people who support you on your journey that don’t subscribe to common or negative narratives 
  • Be open and honest with yourself and others. Pushing against a disadvantage or bias is tough and not always smooth sailing. 

Actions speak louder than words

It’s all well and good believing you can do more, but these thoughts have to be backed by actions that move you towards your goal. For Hannah, she wanted to break 17 seconds in the 100m. And to do that, she knew she needed to push herself to the limit. So she ‘trained with the boys’ - smashing any gender biases and forcing her to up her game. 2020 was the year she achieved her goal of breaking the world record, completing the 100m in a speedy 16.39 seconds. 

Take action 
  • Surround yourself with people that you can learn from. 
  • Get out of your comfort zone - putting yourself in situations and with people that will push you to strive for more. 
  • Ask for help. This is a big action that can make all the difference. Admitting you don’t have all the answers to get to your goal is a strength. 

Maintaining your mindset 

It’s normal to waiver in your mindset when you’re trying to reach a new goal and overcome a challenge. And often this presents itself in distraction or self-sabotage - trying to do too many things rather than focusing on one thing at a time. Think of it as having too many tabs open on your browser; working at a slower pace and feeling overwhelmed. 

“Choose the one thing you want to do. There are so many times when all of us, myself included try to change the world in so many different areas, We juggle every ball. I want to be an athlete, a TV presenter, I want to go to university. And I’ve seen that hit me in the face so many times. Choose your area and go for it. Ask for support all the time. Be relentless. Be whatever you want to be. Just make sure it’s one thing your fighting for - because you’re then more likely to make a change.”, Hannah says of her journey. 

Complete focus 
  • Choose an outcome based on your true passion. Not what you think other people will be impressed by, what is convenient or what, necessarily, makes you the most money. 
  • Don’t spread yourself too thinly. Jack of all trades, master of none comes to mind here. 
  • Track your progress and congratulate the small wins. Whether it's a great training session, speaking up in a meeting or completing a self-learning module. 

We hope you’ve found Hannah’s story and words inspiring - giving you the push to get after it! Watch out for her at the Commonwealth Games, where she’ll be competing for the final gold title which will complete her run of achievements. To hear her full talk, check out The Weekly. Or, if you’d like to book a bespoke session for your team, get in touch. 

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