Edition number 22; dateline 2 October 2009

New shoes

“Woke up cold one Tuesday, I’m looking tired and feeling quite sick” so the song goes. Do you every feel that way? I know I do. But what do we do? Well the advice is to “put your new shoes on”, everything will start to look alright again.

I’m hardly the Imelda Marcos of the sport and leisure industry and, being a little thrifty, I am unlikely to be going out to buy new shoes every time I feel a little down, but I think our friend Pablo Nuttini may have a point as he extols the virtues of new shoes. Do we need to ensure we are little refreshed on a much more regular basis than we currently refresh ourselves? And are we in the business of providing opportunities for other people to put on whatever equates in their lives to “new shoes”?

We all need to feel better about ourselves and the life we lead on occasions; often we are told that this feeling needs to come from within. Material things won’t improve our lives and just buying something new won’t solve the problem are two things I hear on a regular basis and, to a degree, I concur with the sentiment. However, the dedicated shoppers among you know that buying new ‘stuff’ does make you feel better (as long as it doesn’t result in huge debt down the line!). It is  also true that high achievers across many industries and particularly in sport have to have a high degree of motivation and an overwhelming desire to achieve, which comes from within. But don’t forget the role those Jimmy Choos played in Rebecca Addlington’s life.

Hang on a minute though, before I have you all rushing off to Gucci to solve your life’s ills, what is it about putting on our new shoes that makes us feel better? From my non-scientific perspective, the shoes (or handbag or shirt or coat) are a trigger that moves us into a different mood and – for those of us that aren’t quite in the same self-motivation league as Sir Chris – to pedal a bike incredibly quickly we sometimes need something from outside, as well as inside, to get us going along the path that we need to follow.

Finding the key to this self-motivation thing can be a challenge as some people have lost the will to take motivation from anywhere. If you say, “Here, take my shoes they’ve worked for me”, it is unlikely to be effective as they are your shoes not theirs. There is always the possibility that shoes might not do it for them; they may need earrings. But don’t forget that not only will they need earrings, they will also need to know what role the earrings will play in their development otherwise they will be nothing more than a useless trinket that may raise a smile for a few moments but are soon forgotten at the bottom of the jewellery draw.

The trigger needs to light something inside so that the self-motivation spark is more of a flame because although I believe we can use these outside triggers to get us moving, we still need that inner desire to truly succeed. So how can we find these triggers to awaken the self-motivation spark in our colleagues, performers we work with, members of the public (young and old) and, most importantly on that ‘cold Tuesday morning’, ourselves?

First, encourage and develop an environment in which you are allowed to treat yourself before you achieve something as well as after. Many of the players at Wimbledon will have their hair cut or coiffed before playing an important match because it makes them feel good about themselves, which in turn may result in more first serves being hit or more overheads nailed. Second, you need to find what the triggers are for you or the person you are helping and these may be different for different situations. And finally, you need to embrace these triggers as something that makes you feel good and build on that until your deep and overwhelming desire to succeed has taken over and you no longer need the outside stimulus.

I guess a key challenge is how can we do this for people using our services in leisure? Perhaps we can do something with the messages that we put out there – the promotion, the advertising, the PR? For many people it would take some pretty impressive new shoes to give them the confidence to walk through our door as the image they have of our world is pretty scary. It is, after all, full of scantily dressed ‘gym bunnies’; or intellectual powerhouses having meaningful discussions about strange paintings, unmade beds, and pickled cows; or dusty museums with things we can only stare at from a distance. And, once we have persuaded them to totter through our portals on their stilettos, have we made it a place where they feel happy to kick off those shoes and move things on for themselves? I think we are getting better at providing the environment for growth, for confidence-building, better at providing a place where people can develop their own goals but I’m not sure we have the message right yet. And I am not sure I have the answer right… yet.

What I do know is if I put my new shoes on expecting them to make me feel better and more confident, it will put a different perspective on life, the problem, the challenge or the goal. If I don’t, all I will do is feel the pain from the blisters and nothing will change.


Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.

To find Tales from a Tub in previous issues please visit the Comment page.


Tales from a tub
the last word in contemplative comment on the leisure industry

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Feeling better already

If you say, “Here, take my shoes they’ve worked for me”, it is unlikely to be effective as they are your shoes not theirs. There is always the possibility that shoes might not do it for them; they may need earrings.

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