Have you seen the story of Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian Shot put and Hammer Throw National Champion, who ran hurdles in the European Championships this week to keep her team from being disqualified?
I am overwhelmed by it.
Now I don’t understand everything about the scoring of these events, but apparently your team gets 2 points just for running the race. Both of the Belgian team athletes who had trained for this event were injured and the team risked disqualification if they did not have a runner in the race, if they did not get those points
So the team shot putter, Jolien Boumkwo, stepped up.
She doesn’t look like a hurdler.
She hasn’t trained for that specific event.
If you watch the video, she looks like what I would imagine myself to look like if I ran a 100meter hurdle race, complete with the smile on her face. (Of course she's in way better shape.)
There are so many inspiring things about this story but 2 stand out to me when I think about my own work in the world.
First, she was able to focus on who she was and what she was there to do. She was a trained athlete and a team member. She was there to help her team win, to do her part (in her event) with focus and drive AND to support her team.
I am in the job I am in to help patients thrive despite a life of chronic pain. If I stay focused on this, if I aim my drive toward this goal, then the little things are less distracting. Focusing like an athlete on the task at hand can give clarity and peace to my day.
I am part of a team, a team of NPs and docs, MAs and administrative staff. Our team all has the same goal of great patient care (even if our focus slips sometimes).
This brings me to the second thing that stands out to me from this story.
Jolien didn’t know what to expect when she was willing to step out of her comfort zone and try something new in front of her peers and thousands of spectators. She had to dig into her why; why her team and their shared goal was worth her own perceived safety and security. On top of that, in one interview, she said she wanted to do it with grace, out of respect for the athletes who had trained for the 100 meter hurdle.
This is one of the toughest parts of trying to change your work environment as well. It is scary to decide to write a different narrative about your day, especially when there are peers and spectators. It can be unnerving to be seen as different. It can be tough when you are an expert in one thing to take on something that you may not be expert in, like changing your mindset and the culture of your work environment. You may not do it exactly right, you may look foolish.
It takes incredible social courage to step away from ruminating on what is wrong at work and focus on what is right.
It takes incredible social courage to try to be the voice of encouragement when morale is low.
It takes incredible social courage to step away from complaining with respect and compassion for those who may not be ready to do the same.
It takes focus and determination to set the goal of patient care directly in front of you and work towards that, despite distractions or circumstances that are less than great.
I want to be like Jolien. Some days I think I am.
Some days I want to just stay in my lane.
But the work is important.
The team is important.
So I will keep jumping over new hurdles, maybe slowly and with some serious effort. I will continue to look for the good, to stay positive when the odds seem against me, to try and support my teammates to change our experience as a whole.
And maybe, like Jolien, I will be surprised by the outpouring of positive support if I take a little step toward social courage.
What about you?
Do you need a coach to help you take the first step toward changing your life at work? Even elite athletes need coaches. Reach out and let me help you get started.
And after that, watch Jolien’s race.