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Colin Jackson has proven to be one of the best hurdlers of all time

Shane Winckworth

| Last updated 

Colin Jackson has proven to be one of the best hurdlers of all time

From mental health hacks to multitasking tips, allow the former world champion hurdler to impart his winning philosophy for success.


Let’s be honest: if anyone knows about overcoming obstacles it would probably be the bloke who spent a career doing it faster than anyone on earth.


As one of most successful British track athletes of all time, Colin Jackson didn’t just set World Records while hurdling - he blew them out of the water, laying down markers that remained unmatched for decades (his time of 7.30 seconds in the 60m hurdles stood for over 26 years).

Well, you’ll be glad to know he’s remained as humble and classy off the track as he was on it, possessing a zeal for life that is both infectious and speaks volumes for a guy who was told at 15 that he should give up running for the pain it would cause his knees.

Alongside his coaching and TV broadcasting work, Jackson is also Sports Director for Wings for Life World Run, a global running event raising money for spinal cord injury research. And now he’s paying it forward once again by imparting some life advice for anyone who wants to make 2022 their own.

In need of a little motivation to help you get the best out of your studies? Or simply after a confidence boost to thrive at Uni? Whatever the challenge, you’ll feel 10ft taller after reading this…

Find a passion point that puts things into perspective

“Unless it’s affected someone close to you then you might not know much about spinal cord injury. I certainly didn’t when I first got involved with Wings for Life World Run. Movement should be seen as a luxury. Coming out of the pandemic we’ve already realised how many things we’ve taken for granted, such as going out for dinner or to the cinema, and that’s no different for full body movement. Appreciate what you’ve got and try to find something that inspires you into making a difference, like WFLWR.”

Setbacks in life are more guaranteed than success

“Your abilities are far greater than you think. If you spend your life not challenging yourself then you’ll never get the full holistic vision of you, so believe in yourself and accept failure. You have to fail a couple of times before you become really good at anything. Be honest about your losses, too, you’re human. I won 55 per cent of my races, which might sound great on paper, but it means I lost 45 per cent of my races. Take it from me, learning from failure makes the taste of success far sweeter.”


Breathing deeply might change your life

“From the moment we’re born breathing is automatic, we don’t even think about. Very rarely do we breathe deeply, but we should because shallow breathing can create anxiety. Start by taking a really deep breath until you feel it right in the core of your lungs. This can give you a sense of calm, making you think clearer and take far more positive decisions as a result. These decisions might change your life, save your life, inspire somebody else or give the right sort of information when needed. I’d recommend a 10-minute deep breathing class for anyone – it could make a huge difference.”

Don’t stress for the sake of it

“I never prepared a training schedule to factor in injury, so why should you plan your goals for anything but success? It’s exactly the same when you’re preparing for exams or a big presentation; plan for the ultimate. A secondary plan, or Plan B, is fine but you certainly don’t need it at the forefront of your mind. Push it right to the back of your brain because it may never happen. If you’re wasting energy on it then it’s a lack of positive energy.”

Aim for excellence, not perfection

“When I retired from athletics, I found multitasking incredibly difficult. Where I previously only had to focus on one thing and everything pointed in the same direction, suddenly everyone wanted a piece of me, and I couldn’t give my all to everything. The turning point was when I began to really prioritise tasks. Now if I’m working with TV for an Olympic Games, I won’t start studying the hurdles for day six if the 100m is on day one. I wanted perfection in my early sporting career but later realised that excellence is often enough to win, and that goes across life too. It’s much easier to deliver 90 percent at five projects than delivering 100 percent on two projects.”

Finding a mentor can be great for your mental health

“If you’re struggling with anxiety you should know that there are so many people willing to listen and without judgement, too. I say this particularly to young people as it can often feel as if older generations will either judge them or not give them the time of day. One thing I always stress to people I mentor is that I have been 19, 20 and 21 once, I totally understand every single element of being a 21-year-old and the ambitions and tough times they have. Find somebody that you feel very comfortable and confident talking with. After all, a problem aired is a problem shared.”

Pack yourself a mental kitbag

“The better your preparation, the more chance you have of delivering the goods. That’s why I always went to the track with a mental kitbag – a check list of everything needed for a big performance, both physically and mentally, allowing me to go over the groundwork I’d done for one final time in my head. It’s a reminder that you’ve done everything in your power to do what you need to do, so you’re ready for whatever anybody throws at you, no excuses. You never want to be one of those people who say, ‘If only’. That’s a bad place to be…”

Constantly take on new skills

“Upskilling is one of the most important things you can do. Don’t ever just sit there and rest. Every day I want to learn something new, or give myself a challenge, so that I can ultimately be a better person. I learnt to ski when I was 36. I learnt to snowboard when I was 42. Last year I even tried to re-learn the Welsh Language. Admittedly it was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done - I could understand people but couldn’t communicate back - but there was progress. Learn a few words in French, in Italian, or German, and before you know it you might be having a full-blown conversation.”

Don’t overwork your brain

“Recognise that sometimes obsession can be dangerous, which is something I found out as an athlete. You’ve got to have that time when your brain and body can switch off because rest is as good as a couple of 300[m]s. It’s the same when you’re studying for an exam and you’re looking at a passage but nothing’s happening. If, after 15 minutes it’s still not sinking in, put it down, reengage in something else and come back to it - it doesn’t mean you’re being lazy, you’re being smart. Otherwise, you’re not going to learn anything and all it will cause you is anxiety.”

Focus on your own PB, whatever it is you do

“People would talk to me about World Records during my running career, but I didn’t see them as World Records, it was just my PB. In 2009 I spoke to Jenson Button for [BBC show] <Raise Your Game>, just after he became World Champion. He told me that when he was starting off, he just wanted to the best driver he could be. At six or eight years old he had no idea what it would be like, the exercise, the diets, the focus, all the travel when you’re tired but you still have to arrive looking a million dollars and you just want to go to bed, but the basics remained. Focus. Concentration. Inspiration. Dedication. Commitment - all of this has to come together if you want to conquer anything, whether that’s an exam or an F1 World title.”

Embracing nature is good for the soul

When I used to go into the office at Red Shoes [Jackson’s production company], I’d tell the staff, ‘Pack up, let’s go to the beach, ’as there’s a massive one nearby and it always got us creative. Nothing beats that sense of wow. There are some people who walk past some flowers and remark what a beautiful colour they are; then there are people who will walk to the flowers, smell them and have a full-on appreciation of what they’re seeing. Life’s like that. Whatever it is you want to do, try and have a full-on appreciation for it and not just at surface level.”

Words: Joe Ellison

Featured Image Credit: redbull

Topics: Sport, Ireland, News

Shane Winckworth
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