What's your impact?

Sometimes I wonder if anyone listens? This week I received a sign that people do!

I had the opportunity to speak with Sam Edmund on the SEN podcast, This Is Your Sporting Life. We talked about my OLYmpic dream, right from the start as an 8 year old girl in Townsville, to my final Games in London almost 10 years ago, and touched on what keeps me awake at night now... the idea that Brisbane may be announced as an OLYMPIC City! How cool is that?

After the interview aired, I received this lovely message:

“Hey Nat. I heard your podcast this morning on SEN and just wanted to tell you it was fantastic. If I were a youngster hearing it I would have been so inspired to be like you and be an Olympian. You are such a brilliant role model. Well done.”

It’s been nearly 40 years(!) since my OLYmpic dream began, and it's amazing to think that I’m still sharing the message and passion from a SINGLE spark of inspiration, with people all over the world. When I receive a message like the one above, it inspires me to keep going. 

So, this week, I want to talk about impact.

We toil away, we do our best every day, and hope we have a positive impact on the people around us… But it’s not often that we’re formally recognised for our efforts. And even when we are, it can be hard for those positives to outweigh the influence of our inner critic: I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that the negatives we think or hear about ourselves tend to far outweigh the positives. If you pile heaps of sugar into a cup of coffee you have really sweet coffee but it only takes one drop of poison to kill you! That’s how potent negative voices are! And there’s plenty of research that confirms this, too. 

Getting past my inner critic was a struggle for most of my sporting career. The turning point was when I realised it was the critic holding me back. Not my skills, not my body. It was that nagging voice in my head dragging me down. Even now it sometimes pipes up with something to say, but the difference is that I can now listen to what it’s trying to tell me, and then put it back in its box. The best antidote I've found is to shout affirmations back even louder to drown out the negativity. Use empowering, uplifting music if you can’t turn the volume of those affirmations up loud enough yourself! 

Since retiring from beach volleyball, it’s been my passion to share what I’ve learned about goal-setting, motivation, and taming that inner critic. I get to help people to win their own ‘gold medal’, whatever that means to them. Getting to play a part in their success is what fuels me, and I feel immense pride when people say I’ve helped them to live out their dreams*.  

But you don’t have to win a medal to be proud of yourself, or to have an impact on others. You can set an example just by showing up as the best version of you. You will never know how many lives you have touched, or how far and wide your influence extends. Consider you are a leader, even when standing still!

"Your influence, like your shadow, extends to where you may never be." - author unknown

I’ll end today’s blog with two thoughts:
First: keep doing your best, because there are people listening and watching, and you may just be the inspiration they need.
Second: if someone has had a great impact on you, let them know! You may just be the inspiration they need to keep going.

*An excerpt from the SEN podcast: There is one person whose dreams I wish I hadn’t inspired – a certain Brazilian beach volleyball player who beat me in Beijing, and rushed over after the game to say how much she loved my book, Go Girl. I swear the look in her eye said, “Thank you for teaching me how to beat you”


Header image by Daniel Polo

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