Darren Lawrence

Writing Your Own Story

So I have a number of forthcoming blogs in development, however this one has leapfrogged the queue as today the country basks in the unusual situation in which their football team won a penalty shootout!

For those of us a bit longer in the tooth, last night seemed to be following an all too familiar script in terms of supporting England. In this country, we talk about the past a LOT, and especially when it comes to football. There are of course stories of 1966 (heroic victory), 1990 (heroic failure), and numerous defeats at tournaments after penalties. This constant failure had made an indelible imprint in our national psyche, and the way that we viewed ourselves.

“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men (sic) chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

Gary Lineker

After being the better side for much of the game last night, Yerry Mina headed in the Colombian equaliser in added time and, if Twitter is anything to go by, it seemed to plunge the nation into a familiar spiral of trepidation and fatalism.

There was a feeling of ‘here we go again’, and the pundits in the ITV studio, some of whom still have the scars from previous defeats in their playing days, did not do much to settle our nerves, Ian Wright especially, who couldn’t bear to watch. There was a real sense, in that moment, that the experiences of the past were shaping our thoughts of the present and future. I was in the stadium for the Quarter Final in Gelschenkirchen in 2006 and it certainly felt there was an inevitability to Ronaldo sealing our exit that day with the winning penalty. Had it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Possibly.

Until…Eric Dier scored, sparking scenes of jubilation in Moscow and across the country, as decades of negativity were banished in that single kick, and the net bulged.

 ‘England turned history on its head’ said the BBC.

‘They write their own stories. We don’t have to be bowed by the pressure of the past’ said Gareth Southgate, the England manager who is growing in stature with every day that passes it seems. He confirmed that he had spoken to the players about not conforming to what had gone before.

What a sensible, refreshing, and honest approach. They are of course representing England but this group of players are a different team, and a totally different set of individuals, to those that have failed in 6 previous tournament penalty shootouts. They should not be tarnished with that negativity.  What impact did the weight of history in the minds of the players have in those previous defeats? We may never know, but this new generation, finally, have broken the ‘hoodoo’.

‘Many supporters then took to social media with sighs of “we all know how this ends” until they saw that this new England was changing the course of history.’


Southgate seems to have done an awful lot right during this tournament. He is communicating well, staying calm, and not showing signs of the stress and the weight of expectation he must feel, the pressure of the media and the fans. So far, so good. And, most importantly he has proved that you can create your own destiny, just by thinking differently, by thinking positively.

So – readers of my previous blogs will recognise this part – applying this more widely, and to yourself. What beliefs do you have from the past, from your history, that hold you back? Are you bowed by history? Do you live with trepidation about something? Are you conforming to what has gone before? What if that could be removed, taken away, what would the impact on your life be?

The simple lesson for me is that we don’t have to suffer at the hands of our past to enjoy our future. Jonathan Freedland, writing in The Guardian, puts it perfectly – “There’s a national lesson there that goes beyond football, one all about possibility and shaking off the curse of fatalism.”

Whatever happens from hereon in, the England team is rewriting history. How will you escape the limitations of yours, to move towards the bright future you deserve?

Darren Lawrence is a personal performance coach helping individuals achieve their goals in sport, career and life. For an initial conversation about how coaching can help you, please use the contact details on this page.