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Stepping Forward with Natalie Galea

Last year I learnt a valuable lesson. I said ‘yes’ to multiple opportunities that would normally make me feel very uncomfortable. What’s more, I even enjoyed the process.

It began when I was nominated by Australia for a position on an international sporting committee. The committee is charged with representing athletes’ interests and as a result, members must be Olympians or have competed at a World Championship. I qualified on both accounts. My concern was that despite qualifying, most of my peers were Olympic and World Champions. I felt out of my league. I even had a horrid ‘competition’ nightmare where I was required to compete back at my playing weight. Despite the uncomfortableness and nightmare, I stood for election and was successful.

Lessening the imagined consequences

After the election, I received an email asking if I would like to nominate myself for Chairperson of the committee. It was at this point I started to have fun. I was not one hundred per cent certain what the committee did nor what was expected of the Chairperson, but I nominated anyway. ‘What is the worst thing that could happen?’ I thought. No outcome frightened me that much.

The only other candidate who nominated for Chairperson was a dual Olympic Champion and ten times World Champion: the Roger Federer of my sport. At first I felt embarrassment. Surely people seeing that I had nominated for Chairperson would think ‘who does she think she is’ standing against this sporting legend? But the embarrassment soon passed and I began to enjoy the interesting predicament I found myself in.

I did not win the election for Chairperson.

But a fortnight after the election, I was asked by the President of the sport if I would represent it at an International Olympic Committee forum. Delighted, I accepted.

A piece of Play

The experience taught me that despite my ‘can do’ attitude, sometimes my analytical mind erred on the side of caution. As a result, it judged me as ‘not ready’ or not ‘good enough’. What’s more, my mind assumed it had all the pieces of information it needed to make this decision, when actually it only had information on me. Hand wringing that accompanied this process of analysis was not much fun either. Fear of being laughed at could have denied me the opportunity to showcase my unique talents and skill to people in positions of power. In The Book of Life article, the Nature and Cause of Procrastination, it suggests that at times when we are fearful of a task and its consequences,

We mustn’t ramp up the pressure, we must strive to turn the task from a horrifying ordeal to the only thing we’ll know how to deal with calmly and energetically: a piece of play. Lessening the imagined consequences of messing up liberates us to devote to a task all the energy and talent we actually possess.

I learnt that when facing my fears being bold, playful and curious was most productive. It was also a lot more fun and it exposed me to opportunities I would never dream of.

In this next fortnight as you embark on your progression plan please avoid the temptation to allow your analytical mind or fear minimise your aspiration and dreams. Your inner voice will probably whisper your real aspirations and dreams. Write these down. Be bold in progression plan. Dream big overtly, not just secretly. This is a moment to say ‘yes’.

This piece was contributed by Natalie Galea, Research Associate and PhD Candidate at The University of New South Wales.

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