Dr Sinead Kane: How to hardwire your brain to achieve your life goals

Dr Sinead Kane | AIBF
Pictured above is Dr Sinead Kane, International Keynote Speaker.

Dr Sinead Kane is an International Keynote Speaker, Double PhD doctorate, Double Guinness World Record holder, Visually Impaired Athlete, & Qualified Lawyer.

She doesn’t let her disability hold her back and is living life to the full.

Despite having just 5% vision, In February 2018, Sinead broke the Guinness World Record for the furthest distance for a female on a treadmill in 12 hours. She covered a distance of 130.5km.

Sinead is also the holder of a Guinness World Record for being the first blind person to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents, a feat which she completed in less than 7 days in January 2017.

She is also the first Irish female to complete this world marathon challenge.

Sinead and her guide runner [John] completed their first marathon of the challenge at Union Glacier, Antarctica followed by running a Marathon in Punta Arenas (South America), Miami (North America), Madrid (Europe), Marrakech (Africa), Dubai (Asia) and finally Sydney (Oceania).

She came joint-first in the Dubai leg.

Sinead’s achievements are remarkable given that she only did her first marathon ever in October 2014 and only took up running in April 2012.

She proves that those who persist in spite of a disability or adversity can develop determination, motivation, creativity and achieve success.

We spoke to her about the power of mindset and how YOU can train yourself to be more resilient, consistent and purposeful in life…

Hi Sinead, What kind of mindset should entrepreneurs & leaders adopt to deal with the challenges and achieve success?

Mindset and attitude are hugely important for success.

Life is always going to pose problems – having a mindset that encompasses being persistent, highly motivated, resourceful, robust, realistic, problem-solving is vital.

Picture Credit: Mark Conlon, Volcano Marathon, Atacama Desert, Chile.
What specific techniques can they employ to develop this kind of mindset?
1 – Cultivate A Positive Attitude – When it comes to running a business, it pays to have a positive attitude. The way you act around challenges and obstacles will reflect the way you do business. This also affects how your employees will see you.
2 – Motivate Yourself – As an entrepreneur, you need to be self-motivated even when all seems lost. Self-motivation is also aided by positive thinking.
3 – Embrace your individuality – Understand what makes you different. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Stand out and be different to gain traction in a crowded business world.
4 – Hone your communication skills – Entrepreneurs must be excellent storytellers who have clear and concise messaging that speaks to their audience’s pain points.
5 – Confidence building – Confidence building is a significant part of being a successful entrepreneur. Everyone has their own methods. Maybe it’s reviewing positive stories, such as reading articles or blogs online about successful entrepreneurs.

For me, building my confidence is exercise. There is nothing like a run to bring up the endorphins and my entrepreneurial spirit.

6 – Schedule time for daily learning – Each day I make time to listen to podcasts or read. Through that small investment of time every day, my skills and understanding have advanced.
How important is it to have a vision for your future?

Having a vision and purpose is important because it helps with our decision making, which in turn impacts our lives.

Our vision will never become a reality if we sit back and wait for it to happen. Like all things in life, talking about our vision is not enough, we must get busy and work towards our goals.

Pictured above is International Keynote Speaker, Double PhD doctorate, Double Guinness World Record Holder, Visually Impaired Athlete, & Qualified Lawyer Dr Sinead Kane.

The journey is the goals we set for ourselves. The vision is the destination. Having a vision breathes life into our goals.

There will be days where achieving goals will be tiring and frustrating and you will want to give up. There were many times during my PhD that I wanted to give up but I keep focusing on the end destination of achieving the PhD and that inspired me to keep going on the hard days.

Your vision gives meaning and purpose and is your ‘why’.

What advice do you have for people battling limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs keep us in our comfort zone. They can greatly limit development and achievement in our goals, both personally and professionally.

I was badly bullied in school because of my disability and so I ended up with a limiting self-belief that I would never achieve anything in life because that is what the bullies told me.

At age 17, my career advisor told me no to pursue law because it was a reading based subject and she said because of my disability of being visually impaired that I wouldn’t be able for law. Thankfully, I didn’t take her advice.

However, I could have ended up not believing in myself and my ability because of her advice. At the time, I sourced knowledge and assessed internally why I believed that I could study law.

I asked myself with personality traits and skills did I have that would help me succeed.

Limiting beliefs lose their power as soon as we consider that they may not be true. As a mental exercise, adopt the ability to simply question your own beliefs and find alternative possibilities.

Your attitude changes when your knowledge changes. Be open to learning everyday. Be open to learning about your emotions and how emotional resilience impacts our actions.

Your knowledge changes and develops your experiences. Not all experiences will be good – in fact many experiences can be quite difficult in business, but going through the experience develops our knowledge.

We cannot always control our circumstances, but we can control our actions. With each problem that comes my way, I seek solutions.

How important is resilience in business and in life?

Resilience is very important in business and in life because it is the ability to respond, adapt, and start again after adversity. It is our ability to reframe the setback.

Throughout my life, I have encountered many obstacles and stumbling blocks. I was born with a disability – I am visually impaired and registered as blind.

There is a perception in society that people with disabilities can’t do things and that they can’t contribute. If I allowed those attitudes to dictate my life then I would never have qualified as a solicitor, I would never have obtained two PhD’s, I would never have completed 7 marathons on 7 continents within 7 days – (6 days, 9 hours to be exact).

As a child I was never involved in sport but yet I have been resilient to persevere and have represented Ireland in running at World Championship level.

All of the opportunities that I have experienced in life have come about because of my attitude towards setbacks and my daily habits of practising resilience. The resilience that I have built up throughout my life has allowed me to be flexible and adaptable.

The key driver behind my resilience is my purpose. Having a defined goal or reason for doing what you do means that even in the toughest times when it feels like the world is against you, there is a reason to keep moving forward.

Are there any misconceptions around resilience and what it means?

People are not born resilient – that is a major misconception.

Resilience can be learned, however, it requires effort. We live in a world of instant gratification and comfort – that can be a barrier to practising resilience each day.

My daily habits are self-talk, having perspective and gratitude. These habits can help in the process of being resilient. Another misconception is that resilient people don’t have to work as hard at developing resilience…

I think every setback and challenge will present different problems. People will always be tested in different ways no matter how resilient they have been in other scenarios. I have experienced many setbacks in my life.

I experienced a huge setback in October 2019 when I was stopped from competing in a sporting event solely based on my disability. The situation had a huge emotional impact on me despite my numerous times of being resilient in other situations in the past.

The process of resilience involves distress.

Example: Adversity happens and the first thing you want is comfort of some form. What brings comfort to many people is a simple cup of tea. But what if you go to make the tea and there are no teabags? Something as simple as that can add to the distress. Whereas on another day when everything going good then having no tea bags may not bother you.

Another misconception is that resilient people don’t need help. We all need help. None of us do life by ourselves.

Another misconception is that resilience is bouncing back and once we bounce back then everything will be normal again and that you will be back where you were. Adapting involves developing a new normal in which we can evolve and even thrive.

Therefore, through being resilient, we learn and we grow and so we don’t ever fully go back to where we were because we have moved on through growth and wisdom.

What is the best way to build resilience?

Focus on building inner strength rather than seeking an easy life.

There will always be problems and adversity in life and so knowing that then it is important to take responsibility and accountability to learn about your thought process and the actions you take.

None of us want discomfort or pain. But a simplistic way of looking at it is – taking the stairs rather than a lift can be a hassle. It requires more energy and takes longer. However, I sometimes take the stairs because that small daily action of discomfort gets added to my resilience bank so when the bigger problems come – my attitude and mind are more open to putting in the effort.

What has helped me build resilience is the 3 E’s – Emotion, Experience and Environment.

1 – Emotion

Resilience is a behavioural system in which an individual or organisation interprets and responds to new challenges. Building resilience will be different for everyone. It will depend on attitudes, expectations, and feelings. Emotion leads to action in different ways.

For example, a negative emotion damages the capacity to recover from adversity. Positive emotions and reframing the problem broadens the mind and allows you to access information and see other possibilities.

2 – Experience – Every time I experience a setback it adds to my resilient bank. It allows me to learn, it allows me to grow, it gives the opportunity for creativity and to collaborate with others.
3 – Environment – The people you surround yourself with will have an impact on your thoughts, actions and behaviours in responding to uncertainty and setbacks.

If you are around people who look for solutions to problems, people who are resourceful, people who are resilient, people who have experienced setbacks and have learnt from it and want to share their wisdom then those people will help you.

Q: How can collaboration and teamwork be used for success?

Being resilient requires systems thinking and systemic solutions which in turn depend on collaboration among employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Crises like the Covid-19 pandemic highlight the importance of effective collaboration for long-term commercial success.

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely job at times. Hence, the opportunity to learn from others and share best practices should be taken. Covid 19 has no national boundaries.

We have all shared the pain and we must share the solution. We must collaborate to build back better.

There are many different forms of collaboration; It can be networking with businesses in a town or local area.

It could be informal information sharing between businesses in the same sector, sharing problems or experiences, or even a formal alliance to work together on a project sharing costs and revenue.

Be clear as to what you want to get out of the collaboration. Successful partnerships are rooted in common needs, objectives, values, and often support the core business aims of the partners.

The All-Ireland Business Foundation would like to thank Sinead for sharing her valuable insights with the AIBF TRIBE.
We can’t wait to collaborate again in the near future.

To learn more about Sinead, visit her website at www.sineadkane.ie

Words by Cathal Austin