To keep myself sane I go for a run three times a week. Recently I’ve started to take my phone with me – listening to music or the radio helps the time pass a little more quickly.

A few weeks ago I tuned in to a sports radio talk show where the presenter was interviewing British and Irish Lions captain and Welsh rugby union international Sam Warburton.

Part of the interview focused on one of the most controversial episodes witnessed in international rugby over recent years. In the final round of this year’s Six Nations tournament, during Wales fixture with France, the French team appeared to exploit a loophole in the laws of the game that enabled them to replace a player with one who had already been substituted – thus gaining a competitive advantage. Sure enough France proceeded to win the match with the final play of the game. Many argued that the spirit, if not the letter of the law, had been broken. In the following days rugby fans and the media alike were unanimous at the injustice of the result. The radio presenter offered his thoughts “I’m still feeling so angry about that and I wasn’t even involved in the game! I can only imagine how you must be feeling”. As a learning and development professional I was hugely impressed by Warburton’s response. “Look…” he began, “…the controversy is the controversy. The truth is that as players we have little influence over the game’s laws or the ways in which the referees interpret them. I prefer to focus on the opportunities we missed to put the game to bed early in the second half, and what we can do to be more clinical in the future”.

Now you don’t play professional sport to Warburton’s level without being media trained – but as someone who spends his working days helping individuals and businesses to develop performance, I take his words as a great example of a high performance mindset.

One of the key attributes of high performers, be it in sport, business or any other field is that they focus their energy on the things they know they can control to influence the outcome – in Warburton’s case his team’s performance at the start of the second half. High performers don’t waste their time and effort focusing on factors that could influence the outcome, but over which they have little to no control.

Too many of us externalise the reasons why we don’t succeed. It’s always something else or someone else’s fault. We don’t take responsibility. We focus on the things over which we have little control. During the last week alone, I’ve heard the following listed as reasons why individuals or businesses aren’t achieving all that they’d set out to – Brexit, customer budget restrictions, legislation, regulation, internal IT systems….the list goes on. No doubt some of these are valid barriers – the problem is that too often we throw our hands up in the air and use them as convenient excuses. How much more could we achieve if we instead focused on the actions we CAN take to drive more positive outcomes?

Warburton’s comments were a timely reminder of the high performance mindset. Yes, external factors may present a roadblock in our attempts to achieve our goals, but if we have little control over them, then expending time and energy there is ultimately futile. Far better to focus our efforts influencing the factors over which we do exert control, and which can drive us towards a more successful outcome.

The message is clear – control the controllables!

– Dan