Sport and Work

willian_bullAn article by Willian Bull, partner at Instituto Pieron, Sao Paulo


To what extend does the sport practice influence the professional role? Usually, the sport practitioner, when physically and emotionally well prepared, participating in a race or during his/her workout, enters a state we call Flow. In this condition, there is a lot of focus, great control over what one does at each moment and immediate feedback, coming from the achieved result. Moreover, it is common the feeling of time passing without even noticing it, because in this state, there is a deep immersion and concentration on what is done.


The constant practice of a sport that bring us pleasure creates a habit. Let’s say it is a healthy habit and it tends to remain, once it adds a result you benefit from. It takes to a personal belief that effort, dedication, enjoyment and results can coexist.

In the business world, important results, expected from certain executives, almost always depend on other people, areas and variables which one does not have much control or influence on. So, achieving them requires an additional number of capabilities to the ones we use in a sport. And even if we have them, we don’t experience Flow with the same frequency or intensity as we do when practicing a sport. And the reason is that, in sports, most of the times, we set our own goals as well as we determine the intensity and frequency of a train in order to achieve or exceed the challenges we have set.

In many organizations, incredible as it may seems, important goals are not always defined by indicating the amplitude of the expected extend, quality requirements, deadlines, resources involved and level of authority needed for its implementation. Achieving them under these conditions can be a frustrating and costly exercise. The issue gets even worse when a professional can’t connect his/her work to a clear context and purpose of his/her organization.

In the same way, in the business world it is not uncommon to find mismatches between the level of the challenge and the professional capacity, resulting in several feelings and emotions, such as boredom, apathy or relaxation. Very different from the excitement conditions, control and Flow obtained when levels of capacity and challenge are closer.

Another obstacle in the corporate life is that feedback on performance is not always timely, objective and course clarifier for professionals. The weight of not having it varies for each professional, however, its absence can cause many communication “noises” and even bring “surprises” in regards to the degree of results achievement.

So, achieving Flow condition in the professional field is not something trivial, as there are many intervening factors out of our control.

It is obvious that doing what is loved drives one to Flow. Understanding the conditions that make us achieve it, even with a lower frequency when compared to a sport, is critical to increase the frequency of this productive emotional channel and genuine commitment to what we do in our “corporate role”.

So, what are the points of contact between sport practice and necessary professional skills within the corporate world and even at work out of it?

The discipline we have in sports can drive us and make us persevere in the pursuit of objectives we have in our professional field. The overcoming obstacles in sports, and the pleasure associated to it, are lessons learned we use as metaphors to overcome the natural adversities of the corporate world. At each overcoming, we feel pleasure (sometimes relief) and reinforce the sense of ownership for what we do. That is how we develop the so-called resilience, resulting from the natural dynamics promoted by challenges and adversities overcoming.


The editorial board of “” would like to thank Instituto Pieron’s contribution to our blogsite. Comments and other contributions are welcome!