Jean François Ménard’s new book teaches us how to have an Olympian mentality at work.
You’re training some of the country’s elite athletes. Within that inner circle, there is a technical coach, a strength and conditioning coach to train their body, a physical therapist, chiropractor, nutritionist, and a mental-performance coach.
Being a part of that inner circle is a huge responsibility considering that when an athlete reaches an elite level, what separates the winners from the rest of the field isn’t their physical preparation but how well they build that brain muscle strength and call upon it when their performance hits a curve.
Like any coach in this arena, you’ve put in the work and navigated your way successfully at various international competitions – World Cups, Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. Each event is getting you closer to the holy grail – the Olympics. For the first time in this journey, you’re about to be tested on the biggest stage there is; and for the first time, doubt has entered the equation. The Olympics – the big league and you start to question if you’re ready.
What makes this interesting is the person with those doubts is none other than Jean François Ménard. Ménard is a mental-performance expert, who is one of the most sought-after mental performance specialists in the country. He has coached many high achievers including gold medalist figure skaters Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, mogul skiing Olympic champion Mikaël Kingsbury – and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Super Bowl champion and medical doctor, along with C-suite executives, among others.
You would think someone with his position and experience, training elite athletes at the top of their game, would be at the top of his game. So, it was refreshing to see that Ménard was not afraid to show that he too has had moments of self-doubt, which makes his new book, Train (Your Brain) Like An Olympian: Gold Medal Techniques to Unleash Your Potential at Work, a stand-out in the genre of self-help books and Ménard a sought-after speaker.
He’s been there – he’s experienced those moments, with that crazy noise inside our heads telling us we’re not good enough. In fact, he recalls avoiding situations that made him feel vulnerable when he was younger. He was a perfectionist, a trait that would sometimes limit his personal growth. Yet, he is the very same person who has guided these elite athletes and given them the tools to harness the brain’s power.
That’s what makes this book the perfect tool to add to your arsenal. With Ménard’s guidance, you too can apply the same mental training strategies used by Olympians to help you perform in your working life. But a word to the wise: “It’s not about being the best in the world,” says Ménard, “but to learn and find ways to improve, period.”
As a mental-performance coach, he knows all too well that the brain is the athlete’s secret weapon. When an athlete has reached the pinnacle in their sport, what separates those at the top is how well they’ve trained their brain to perform optimally. “They’ve trained their brains to focus better, to react well to unexpected changes, to deal with pressures including setbacks. But they too can fall prey to the tricks the brain can play if it is not well-maintained. Their brains can also become their worst enemy.”
We’ve all been there – hearing that negative mental chatter that doesn’t seem to give us a break. Even Ménard has experienced it. So, how can you turn it off?
Mindful breathing is extremely powerful, explains Ménard. If you can focus on your breath, you can automatically connect with the present moment and get away from your negative thoughts. By taking those breaths, you’re connecting with your body, and it relaxes your nervous system and helps to release muscular tension in your body.
“But it also slows down the brain waves. Instead of firing on all cylinders and igniting those gamma waves, it’s easy to be irritated or to be caught off guard. By focusing on your breath, you tap those alpha waves where things are a lot slower, relaxed and controlled. It’s easier to see the situation as it is,” says Ménard.
Ménard is proof that mental preparation can be a compass to help navigate those choppy waters. It won’t be achieved overnight – it requires effort. By sharing the stories, analogies and visuals, Ménard has given readers the tools to start their journey.
There is no finish line in these Olympics. It’s about embracing those small wins.
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