Jul 14 , 2019
What Parkour Taught Me About the Mindset of Change

I love Australia, specifically Sydney which has become my sanctuary and home base. As the years go by, it’s tempting to forget the magnitude of the transition that I made with moving here from South Africa. Despite the many superficial similarities, moving to Australia felt like being a fish out of water for the first few years in terms of the business, social and work culture. Being a Radical Change Coach, I felt the added pressure to put my money where my mouth was and embrace the mindset of change.

That’s where Parkour came in. It offered a nurturing ecosystem of opportunities to put myself out there to meet like-minded souls and get in touch with an unfamiliar city. Personally, I am always up for a big challenge and Parkour certainly demanded I rise to the occasion.

“Parkour is a training discipline, where the practitioner moves from A to B in the most efficient way possible.”

AAPES

This may sound simple, but it involves vaulting, running, jumping, climbing and traversing all sorts of obstacles in an urban environment. Although a physical sport, it is also very much a mental discipline; you will face your fears, overcome them and forget they existed in the first place!

When I saw the parallels to what I do in the change management space, I was sold on the idea and began training with the NSW Parkour Community (and later Australia wide). Little did I know, this sport and its amazing community would teach me more about the mindset of change than any official methodology. 

So I would like to share the key lessons I learnt not only about change, but also about myself.

It’s About Commitment

What Parkour Taught Me About the Mindset of Change - Commitment is about showing up & doing it

Parkour taught me that commitment is an action, not a state of being. Parkour demands that you fully commit, not just to the awesome sensation of nailing a jump and overcoming all obstacles; but also to fully commit to the danger. Just like with any change, it’s great to focus on the outcome and benefits. But without fully embodying and accepting the risk and challenges you face, it’s kind of pointless even starting.

With all things in this dimension, all amazing goals come with a shadow of risk, danger and obstacles. Commitment is about showing up and doing it anyway because the end goal is inspiring enough and worth it. It’s also acknowledging that there will be a struggle and it’s moving forward through this that makes the success of change just that much sweeter.

Overcoming Fears

I also got deeply in touch with fears and mindset, especially those moments just before a massive jump. I learnt very quickly that procrastination equals PAIN. The more you delay the jump, the more time and space you give for those fears and projections to grow in your mind. Not to mention the lower likelihood of following through.

With all change, once, and only once, you are committed, the longer you hesitate before taking action, I have learnt that the bigger our minds try to convince us to remain with the status quo, painting vivid pictures of everything that can (and quite possibly will) go wrong. It’s definitely not a nice island to live on and I wouldn’t recommend building a condo there because the tsunamis come in hard and fast.

Building a Community

The atmosphere of community that Parkour offers is the third and most powerful catalyst in the mental chemistry that happens on the precipice of change in mindset. I realised when I commit to something, show up and own the fear, I automatically attract a community of like-minded people. Change need not be done in a vacuum; surrounding myself with a community of people who were just as crazy, passionate and willing was not only good for my body (safety first) and mind, but also for my soul.

There is something magical that happens when you work through change with and for others that bonds people for life and when I look back on the many projects I have been on, my strongest relationships are forged through the ones that presented the most challenge and chaos. Lifelong bonds are formed when we stand by each other through difficult processes and times.

Visualise Before You Jump

Being the hot-blooded, A-type personality that I am, the first few months of parkour were spent nursing the many injuries my body was subjected to because I saw jumps as a target that my ego and confidence can overcome by “just going for it”. I learnt very quickly that this approach left way too much to the forces of the universe and that if my unconscious mind was not on board, I would often freak out mid-jump and do a lot of damage.

After eating a lot of humble pie, I began observing and questioning the process that seasoned practitioners who had the results I wanted would do. In doing this, I learnt that if I took a few moments to visualise me landing the perfect jump in my mind’s eye first, that I would not only follow through every time but save myself a lot of hurt and pain. In the same way, businesses, leaders, teams and individuals are more likely to follow through on their goals if they start with the vision of what good looks like FIRST, before embarking on the journey of change. Start with the end in mind, and the how will follow naturally.

Identifying Toxicity

Unfortunately, with all great sports, politics and egos rear their ugly heads and I learnt very quickly that the fastest way to alienate, disengage and detract is to allow leaders to make it all about themselves. Political games, power struggles, egos and competing subcultures left unchecked is the biggest turn off when facing any hair-raising change. And sadly, this even led an enthusiast like me bowing out of the game and seeking more inclusive and soulful spaces.

Granted, these aspects of our humanity always arise during the tension and unknown of change and that is okay. The issue is that if this fungus is left in the dark to its own devices without it being consciously brought to light and resolves; quite frankly it’ll spread like crazy and pollute the minds, hearts and souls of all those involved. Purpose gets distorted and we all lose in the end when costs of a toxic culture outweigh the benefits.

I end this on a bitter-sweet note intentionally because the reality to is, all change is bitter-sweet. All creation means the destruction of the old, and it is okay as long as we cherish the lessons. Parkour taught me that change is a constant in my life and mindset is everything. It certainly isn’t the first, nor the last awesome activity I do in my life, yet the journey of traversing from point A to point B gave me lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life, even if I move to point C, D and/or E at a later stage in life.

Love and trust the process. That’s what stands the test of time.