How to think like a kick-boxer and sharpen your 'mental edge' at work

When we spend too much time in our comfort zone, we’re unable to reach our full potential.

By Nadine Champion Martial artist

WHEN FACING A new challenge at work, it’s easy to rest on your laurels. However, that’s not going to push your career – or life – ahead. The key is to develop your ‘mental edge’.

Do you always act with courage and motivation or do you hold yourself back at times? If you occasionally hold yourself back, you’ll feel better knowing that everyone else is doing the same thing.

It’s common to miss opportunities because we let doubt about the possible outcomes create hesitation. We want to voice an idea, share our thoughts or put ourselves forward, but we don’t always speak up for fear of rejection and failure. When we get stuck in inaction, I call it the “locker room of life”.

As a martial artist and champion kick-boxer, I continually had to make the conscious decision to leave the safety of my locker room and face the bright lights of pressure.

Whenever we risk the possibility of failure or disappointment, it is a natural reaction to want to protect ourselves. However, when we spend too much time in our comfort zone, we often feel demotivated and unable to reach our full potential.

There are two critical factors to success solely within our control – courage and motivation. I use the metaphor of martial arts to explain how we can build these skills. When your competition is of equal size and ability, the determining factor in success is often your mindset.

Here are my five tips for developing your mental edge.

1. Formalise a relationship with a mentor

In martial arts, we cannot grow and learn without a teacher, or sensei. Their role is not just to improve our external skill set but to also help you develop your character and grow as a person. We all need an outside perspective at times to create possibilities and encouragement to aim higher.

I am often asked how one gets a mentor. The answer is surprisingly simple – find someone you respect and dare to ask. The fear of rejection will be real, but without asking, how will they know you want a mentor at all?

2. Know why you’re fighting

We all have something worth fighting for in our lives, from career success to our families. When you know what matters most to you, you can stand firm in the conviction of your value system. Know what you want and why you are willing to fight for it.

3. Have a strong team in your corner

Kick-boxing is an individual sport, but I could not compete without a team in my corner. It’s just not allowed. Why? Because we all need support, good advice and someone to cheer us on while we are trying our best to succeed.

A strong bond develops when you ask someone to be in your corner and then offer to do the same for them – win, lose or draw.

4. Change your thinking

When you face an opponent, an adverse set of circumstances, or find yourself knocked to the ground by life, it’s important to control your response. The best reaction is a positive, proactive one where you come out on top. When you change your thinking, you often change your perspective.

5. Be brave for just 10 seconds

When you feel stuck in the locker room of life, a short burst of courage can have life-changing possibilities.

The more often you practice being brave for just 10 seconds, the more experienced you become for when you really need the courage to fight for what means the most to you.

Nadine Champion is a champion martial artist and motivational speaker and will be speaking at the Chartered Accountants Ireland Influence leadership conference in May.

A version of this column first appeared on

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