• Future Proof Me: Part One

    posted on 15/10/2020 by Frances Keane

    In the first of a two-part blog series on future proofing ourselves in these Covid times, mental fitness expert Neil O’Brien  argues that we need to go beyond coping mechanisms. 


    Since Covid began, the focus of the advice has been on habits, structure, routines, rituals, stay-in-the-day etc. And all of that has been fine, but now that the ‘new normal’ is normalising I believe it is time to go beyond coping mechanisms. 

    A good coach knows the difference between ‘process’ and ‘outcome’ and when to emphasise which. For example, when I was coaching one of our elite athletes, some days we just talked about gold medals (outcome) and other days we definitely did not talk about that; we talked about one extra thing that could be done that day (process). My job was to read her mood and know which one to talk about. Talking about both doesn’t work as it dilutes the attention and focus.

    We’ve been focused for too long on process. Now it’s time to think about gold medals. As elite sportspeople such as golfers, tennis players or free-takers will tell you, when they are disconnected from the target they feel rudderless, disorientated. Take football. The ball is not the target; the goal is. The upshot? Too much emphasis on the process disconnects us from the target. 

    So what’s the answer?  

    It might seem counter-intuitive in times like these to suggest connecting to something in an uncertain future. But the future has always been uncertain. Perhaps we just didn’t know too much about it; we had an innocence. Maybe these days we know too much. I believe we have too much information and not enough hope. It seems to me that information can overpower hope – that logic can bully emotion. So whilst it can seem that the logical thing to do is wait for more information, the waiting can actually rob us of our innocence and eagerness to get going.

    In work recently, I’ve felt that people are actively seeking hope

    There’s no question that we are suffering at the moment. But suffering doesn’t lead to hopelessness. What does lead to hopelessness is the suffering that you think you can’t control. Suffering without control can produce symptoms of depression, and can alter our appetite, physical activity, sleep and concentration.

    The answer is to take back some control. 

    In recent conversations with clients, I’ve noticed that we would agree that if we just had a date when this current crisis would end, we would be able to cope much better; it wouldn’t seem as bad, as hopeless. We would then have something to work towards. And then I thought – ‘let’s just pick a date, make one up of our own!” Why not? Take some control back.  


    A person once said that the secret to a happy and meaningful life is threefold:   have something to work on, something to hope for and somebody to love. 

    So your homework from Future Proof Me Part One is to pick a date. A date you like, a date that might mean something to you, but it should be more than a week away but less than two months away. 

    In Part Two next week I will suggest something for you to work on and something to hope for. I’m going to leave somebody to love up to you.