The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Rory Darkins

Rory Darkins
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Episode 41

Rory Darkins: Episode Description

On this episode of The Inspiration Project, Brendan Corr talks to High Performance Coach, Rory Darkins about the importance of mentors, positive psychology in high performance, how to deal with and manage disappointment and the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset and the science of success.

Among other things Rory shares:

  • The science of positive psychology in high performance
  • The differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset
  • Why mentors are important for growth and maturity
  • Looking at success from a different perspective
  • The psychology of well-being
  • How to manage disappointment
  • Rory’s story of faith and it’s importance in his life and career

Rory Darkins: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement:
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student well-being, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction:
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast, an opportunity for us to talk with people who’ve been able to find a sense of purpose and call in their life and have done so in the context of their faith. This morning, I’m talking to Rory Darkins. Rory is a high achievement performance coach. Had a background in travelling the world with professional cricket teams, as a professional runner, done work with Olympic level athletes pursuing excellence in their performance. Very recently, Rory has adapted a unique well-being and performance programme that is captured in an app, in this digital age, and is really looking forward to the opportunity of talking with the young people here and there around how they can maximise their performance and their sense of well-being. Rory, welcome to The Inspiration Project podcast. How are you doing?

Rory Darkins
I’m good, thank you. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Brendan Corr
It’s lovely to have you. And people have already picked up, just with those few sentences, that you hail from the country of the long white cloud, New Zealand born and bred.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Born and bred in New Zealand. Did all my schooling there, and then cricket brought me to Australia eventually when I was in my early twenties. I’ve been here ever since, pretty much.

Brendan Corr
Living in Australia at the moment, Rory?

Rory Darkins
Yep. Yep. So living down the Sutherland Shire and love it. So also love being able to go back to New Zealand when we can, but definitely at home over here in Australia now.

Brendan Corr
Have you brought any family with you from New Zealand?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, I actually have. My wife is from the same town as me in New Zealand, and managed to convince her to try out living in Australia. And fortunately, that worked out. So here we are, we’re here, and we’ve got a one-year old who was born over here.

Brendan Corr
Congratulations. That’s fantastic. We have-

Rory Darkins
Yeah, thank you.

Brendan Corr
Obviously, a great deal of affinity with the folks across the ditch, and the way that country and that culture continues to contribute to Australian courage and culture. So you’d mentioned that cricket brought you here, Rory. How did you get into cricket? When did that become a passion for you, and what was the nature of your involvement in cricket that brought you to Australia?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, cricket was my main passion when I was growing up. It was the thing that I loved to do. And I had an older brother, three years older than me, so I was always trying to keep up with him. And he started playing cricket, and so that was me, I ended up bowling the whole time because he wanted to bat, and he was older so he got his way. And so throughout all of my formative years, I guess, it was all about cricket, and very ambitious, wanting to play at high level and kind of worked my way through the age group representative competitions and things like that and tried to have a crack at it. When I left school, I took a gap year and went over to England to play some club cricket, and so I could play 12 months of the year; the New Zealand summer and then the English summer. And did that a few times, but then eventually I came over to Australia to do some work with a spin bowling coach by the name of Peter Philpott, who he’s actually passed away this year, but he was a great mentor of mine who taught me a lot about the art of league spin bowling. And I just wanted to test myself over here and learn from the best in that field. So that’s sort of the short story of cricket. And eventually transitioned out of that into more. I got really passionate about studying psychology and the mental skills for well-being and performance, so the sort of transition to working with other athletes happened quite naturally from there.

Brendan Corr
That’s interesting, and recognition to Peter Philpott, one of the great Australian cricketers. Must have been a real privilege for you to have spent some time under that tutelage.

Rory Darkins
Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
Let me draw that connection. You mentioned, as you started, even in your junior cricket, having an awareness that you were ambitious, that you wanted to play at the top level. Was that something that was inherent in your character? Was it something that grew out of your family, the competition with your older brother, that route or that drive, that sense of, “I want to be good at this,” where did that come from?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, it’s a great question. I definitely think that formative part of it was the backyard competitions with my brother and trying to keep up. And being a spin bowler, it always felt like it didn’t matter if the kids were bigger than you, you could kind of deceive them with a bit of spin or things like that. I think ultimately I was always driven by, I loved the process of trying to improve. And so that was really what sustained me. I was one of those people that was always practising. I always like, I’ll take a cricket ball to school and spin it from hand to hand all the time. I just loved the fact that I could always work on something and always be finding different creative ways to improve. And so I think, more than anything, it was that process of knowing you could find a way to get better each day that gave me so much life and was almost a big part of the reward. And so, I just loved that whole process. And then with that came an aspiration to find out how good I could be. And so being a small country, New Zealand, you naturally think, oh, I want to play for New Zealand. And I kind of worked my way up to the under-19 World Cup squad, but didn’t make the final team. But that was kind of, I guess, where that journey got to. But yeah, it was just the craft of it, the craft of constantly looking to improve and to have a sense of mastery.

Brendan Corr
I want to come back to what it must mean, and what the area of some of that fundamental disappointment that you must experience with that under-19 select, and how do you place that in the realm of the psychology of success? But I think what I’m picking up, Rory, is that if it wasn’t cricket, it would’ve been something, that you were a person who was going to be driven to improve, driven to practise, rehearse, commit to that growth.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. I think you’re bang on there, and I’ve found that in my life now with what I do, with the work side of things, but that it’s really, I just love that process of trying to find creative ways to improve, and the consistency of always having something that you are thinking about and exploring and kind of refining. I do love that. So I found that when cricket ceased to be that for me, it naturally became something else. And so I think that it’s just part of who I am that I love that whole process of trying to grow.

Brendan Corr
That’s terrific that you found an avenue where what were your psychological trays and tendencies, so you had the physical attributes that could be developed. Like, you can’t just a regular guy off the street, I don’t think, can become a world class spin bowler. So you found an avenue for those psychology trays to be benefited. Is that an important part of it, finding your thing?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, look, this is a really good point. And I think, since I’ve studied the science of well-being and even the psychology around passion, passion is such an important component of well-being and growth in life. And obviously, that particular craft, spin bowling at the time was a passion of mine. And it was an outlet for me to utilise the parts of my personality that I love to use. But equally I think that what I guess my journey has shown me is that the passion for the thing that I love to do is one thing, but then being able to take that passion and connect it with how it makes a difference to other people is sort of what moved it from passion to purpose. And that’s what I ultimately found by actually moving away from the sport and into helping other people with their pursuits, is that I was still able to bring that same passion of how can I do this? How can I understand how to help this person the best I can? And how can I use and continually learn different skills and tools to help, but how can I map that onto making a difference beyond myself? And so I think that when we can align our passion or bring passion to what we do, but then ultimately find ways to contribute that to a bigger purpose, that’s where a whole new kind of life emerges.

Brendan Corr
Did you have somebody in your life that was assisting you with that? Did you have somebody that was speaking positive mindset, growth mentality and mental disciplines working into habits of discipline? Did you have somebody doing that or were you making it discovering yourself?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. To me, I had great parents. I want to acknowledge them that they have always been very supportive, very encouraging and very kind of life-giving in that way. And I also had great mentors, and I think that’s something that I learned through pursuing cricket, is the value of finding mentors and asking people, sharing honestly what it is that you want to do and what you’re all about, and then finding people who are willing to help nurture that. And so I had great mentors, many of them throughout my time with cricket. And the things that they helped me with in pursuit of those goals were so transferable to anything else. So I think a lot of the discipline and the skills that have been helpful in other areas of life actually came or were nurtured through mentors.

Brendan Corr
And were you the sort of person that sought out a mentor, or did the relationship sort of stumble into those by chance? Was it something that was organic? Crafted? What does it mean about the way a mentorship relationship should or could develop?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Yeah, again, I think my parents helped in the early days. They sort of identified, like, “Hey, this person might be.They’re willing to help and they might be good to talk to,” and things like that. But I think just having a couple of early experiences with great coaches or great mentors showed me the value of that. And that led to me seeking it out and realising that more often than not, if you are authentic about where you want to go and what you want to improve, that people are willing to help. They actually often enjoy it. And so that helped me to then seek it out more proactively on my own accord, and just contact people and say, “Hey, I’d love to learn from you. Here’s what I want to do.”

Brendan Corr
Bit of cold call.

Rory Darkins
“Would you be willing to meet up?” Yeah. Yeah. And it’s often people that you sort of vaguely know, like you sort of interact with here or there, and you’re like, oh, actually I’d love to spend an hour with this person, asking them questions or getting their perspective. Or I actually found some good mentors of mine, there are a couple where I’d go for a run with them and it was like, you just go for a jog and talk, and those conversations.Yeah, the guidance came, so.

Brendan Corr
Bit of intentionality, but also a little bit of organic, just things out of relationship.

Rory Darkins
Yeah, absolutely.

Brendan Corr
You mentioned that you found your mentors were willing to help, but I wonder whether you could pass a comment on the other side of that equation, the willing to be helped, the notion of being open to that. What sort of a role does that play in having input from others around you, and learning from and with them?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Look, I think the research around that question is really strong around the value of what’s called a growth mindset, which is the belief that with effort and application, that you can change and grow and improve, that your abilities are not fixed. And so that growth mindset and willingness to learn, the willingness to not know, and then to go and ask and to explore things and to try and fail and then to learn and try again, that whole process is, I think, so. When you can bring that kind of mindset to anything that you want to do, suddenly there’s far less fear of failure. There’s far less fear of judgement, because you realise that you’re not expected to have it all figured out or to do everything perfectly all the time. That actually, if you can embrace the uncertainty of how something is going to go and see that as a great learning opportunity, regardless of what happens, then you’re so much more open to whatever happens and you can extract the learning and growth from that. And so I think that mindset, it’s often talked about, I guess, as a beginner’s mind, where you’re sort of just very curious, very open to new ideas and learning and exploring that is so fruitful when it comes to improving in anything.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. That’s good. Teachability is, coming from the education sector, sort of the language we might put onto it. So it’s interesting perspective for you to bring that it isn’t necessarily acknowledgement of weakness, but it’s the removal of pressure of expectation that’s really interesting. That in itself is a psychology, right? That you are adopting mind positions what views yourself in the world that will change the way you experience the world. Not circumstances, but by your response to those circumstances.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Well, that’s one of the most common things that I see hold people back is. I talked about a growth mindset there. The alternative mindset is a fixed mindset where you feel like your abilities are fixed, that they can’t really change, and so that the issue with having a fixed mindset when it comes to almost anything is that if you are seen to try and you fall short, that feels like it is personally displaying that you don’t have what it takes. And it feels far more vulnerable and far more is a greater fear of that, a greater fear of failure when you have the mindset of, well, if I fail, what does that mean about who I am? Versus seeing failure as feedback. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow and can move you forward. So I think, yeah, choosing to adopt a growth mindset around our abilities and around what it is that we want to do, can liberate us to pursue that and to grow and to not fear failure.

Brendan Corr
That’s good. So you’ve used a few phrases dotted through our conversation so far, Rory, that have. They sound very similar to one another, but I’d like to explore, if we can, some of the distinctions. So you’ve talked about the science of success, the psychology of well-being, high performance growth mindset. When you’re dealing with a thing like sport, the science of success is very tangible, right? You want to improve your bowling average or your accuracy or your penetration or the time for whatever run it is that you’re doing. Where do you draw distinctions between the science of success: How do I reach a pinnacle of some sort of challenge, versus the psychology of well-being? Are they different? How do you see?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, that’s a massive question, and one that’s basically the question that got me into this field of research and what I do now. And as I had a couple of close friends who were competing at the Olympic games, and from an outsider looking in perspective, they were at the top of their game. They were living the dream, so to speak. But what I noticed in speaking to them is that their pursuit of peak performance in that way was actually coming at the expense of their well-being. And that got me thinking about, does it have to be that way? Is it really that it’s this case of you choose success or well-being and can’t have both, right? And so that question led me into the research. And when I got deep into the research and then also did my own research with former Australian test cricket captains and coaches, the conclusion was actually the opposite, that it was really clear that it’s not an either/or choice between well-being or performance, that well-being and performance are two sides of the same coin, and that well-being is a platform for sustainable high performance. So if we want to get the best out of ourselves over the long term, then we need to invest in our well-being in order to be able to do that. And they do absolutely go together. And so, yeah, I definitely see them as the obviously different things. The time that you’re able to run, it’s different to your overall well-being. But if you are looking after your well-being, you’re satisfying your needs around well-being and you’re really flourishing in that area, in all the areas of well-being, then you are going to be in a better position to do what it takes to realise your potential, and your chosen performance domain as well.

Brendan Corr
So what I’m hearing in some ways there is just you can adopt certain. The science of psychology to reach a summit, set yourself a goal. “I’m going to win this gold medal. I’m going to get to this cup team.” And all the hard work and the discipline and the mentoring and the coaching that’s going to get me to that point, if that’s all you are trying to do, you might sacrifice some broader aspects of who you are for the sake of that external measure of success. But you’re telling me that’s a bit of a shallow measure of success.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. And it’s not the required path. I think there’s a bit of a myth out there that you have to sacrifice everything if you want something like that. And it’s really just not the case. The issue with a few, narrow it right down to yeah, I’m going to reach this particular summit of a goal I’ve set for myself and I’m going to do that at all costs and I’m just going to put the blinkers on and only focus on that, the issue with that and what I found so often impacts athletes who kind of incidentally fall into that trap is that their whole identity and self-worth becomes wrapped up in that particular performance. And so they are only as valuable as a person in their own minds as their performance dictates. So, if they win, then they feel like, “I’m great, I’m a really valuable person.” And if they fall short, then they’re worthless, right? And that’s the trap of entangling our identity with what we do. And so I think what’s so healthy is to create that space between your identity and worth as a person and the things that you do, that you can still absolutely be passionate and focused on doing what it is that you love to do, but that is not the determinant of your value as a person.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. So that “I am my performance” is actually a limiting notion of who you are.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. And is a limiting notion in terms of performance too, because then when you line up to compete, you feel like you’re competing for your entire self-worth. And that creates a heightened state of stress, a heightened fear of failure, because suddenly it’s not just losing the game that’s at stake, it’s everything you believe yourself to be is at stake. And that’s not a great place to perform freely from.

Brendan Corr
What about, Rory, when you feel that sense of expectation to achieve, to perform, succeed, and it’s come from an external source? I’m thinking, describing, hearing you talk about this, I’m thinking of when Cathy Freeman was lining up at the Sydney Olympics for the 400 metre final and the weight of the nation, or any of our national teams, with the Australian cricket team, and the whole nation is expecting David Warner or Steve Smith to go out and save the test, how do you manage that? Or maybe it’s your parents, maybe it’s your family that is looking for you to be something in the moment. Where does the psychology of well-being kick in there?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Look, everyone who is able to perform at the pinnacle of sport, the examples you use there, high performance happens from being deeply present in the moment that you’re in. And so the skill set that is required to develop is the ability to focus on what’s important in the moment that you’re in right now, and focus on what you can control, because how much other people want you to win, or how much the nation wants an outcome to happen, that’s really only a distraction if you were to focus on it and it doesn’t actually help you to achieve that result by thinking about it, by focusing on how much other people want it. Whereas, if you can use that, obviously it’s not to ignore that, it’s to almost embrace that and almost redirect the energy of that toward, well, how do I best focus my mind on what I can control right now?

Rory Darkins
And that skill set, moment by moment. So in a cricket example, it’s ball by ball, each ball. It’s about watching the ball and doing your process that helps you to see the ball and hit the ball and make good decisions. And so, if you can just keep bringing your mind back to the moment right now, those moments will add up to the best chance of the result that everyone wants happening anyway. And so it is a skill set that we benefit from developing and working on, so that we’re able to bring our mind into the moment and focus on what matters. So those are some pretty intense examples, obviously, and it’s not easy in those examples, but really the skill is still that simple.

Brendan Corr
So what you’re describing, I think, there is what those enduring champions or the big game player, those athletes that you know they’re the big moment performances, that’s sort of what they’re doing. They’re not ignoring it, they’re not shutting it out, recognising this here is a moment, and concentrating on using that moment. It’s like good stress and bad stress, right, I guess?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Correct.

Brendan Corr
Focus on the skills that they’ve raised about being in the moment.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Yep, exactly right. And that’s often the difference. If you watch sport, you watch a game of tennis or you watch any kind of contest like that, it’s really so often it’s the athlete who’s better able to stay in the moment when there’s so much that could pull them out of the moment. That’s what they’re doing. And I think of someone like Roger Federer, you can see from the outside just how good he is at that, that he just comes back to. Literally blows a little bit of breath on his hand, does his routine. And he seems to rise in those moments, but he doesn’t do it by thinking about how much he wants it. He does it by heightening his focus and on the moment that he’s in.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good. I want to, at some stage, draw the parallel or the extend conversation we’ve been having primarily around sports and achievement and the more general life. But let me go back to something that I mentioned earlier about in dealing with disappointment, if you’re adopting this notion, and even if you have come to the point of saying, “I’m disconnecting my achievement or my performance, this instance from who I am,” there’s still disappointment. You didn’t make that team or you didn’t make that final or you didn’t make that personal best. Where does that fit in, in terms of this idea of my well-being?

Rory Darkins
Mm, yeah. I think the important first step with any disappointment is to acknowledge it and realise that part of being human is to feel the full range of human emotion. And disappointment is one of those emotions. And we feel disappointment when something that is important to us is lost or doesn’t eventuate. And so the fact that we feel disappointed really just tells us that we care. And it’s important to care about the things that you value. And so we don’t want to diminish the disappointment. We actually want to create space to feel it and create space to honour it. And so that’s sort of step one is really acknowledging, like “I’m feeling disappointed because that outcome or that situation, that’s really important to me.” And so, because of how important that is to you, you then have the choice as to what you’re going to do with the disappointment. And the best thing we can often do is to find a way to harness it. And so rather than try to diminish it, or suppress the disappointment, it’s really, how can we repurpose that pain? Or how can we harness that disappointment in a way that is helpful in moving us forward in a way that we want to move forward? And so, a practical example with sport can be that you don’t get an outcome, you don’t make a team or something like that, and that disappointment can help to fuel you to focus on what you can do to improve for next time. It can be literally a motivator that moves you forward, as opposed to something that causes you to be despondent. So that’s a good example of harnessing it, and going, all right, what’s important to me? How can I use this or harness this feeling in order to help me make those values-based choices that move me toward the life that I want and being the person that I want to be?

Brendan Corr
Even when those things have come about at your own mistakes, your own misjudgments, or things that you’ve done that you were in control of and you didn’t control well in the moment?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. And so, when you do see that there’s that personal sense of “I could have done that better,” well, there’s your learning opportunity. Rather than that be something that we beat ourselves up about, it can be something that is harnessed as a really clear way to improve. So, okay, yeah. I wish I did this, that, and the other thing better. So what am I going to do with that learning? How can I use that to help me to be better at this thing that’s important to me? How can this help me for next time? And so, rather than dwelling on what hasn’t happened or what did happen, it’s extracting the learning, extracting the growth, and using that in a way that is helpful to move forward with.

Brendan Corr
In that context, Rory, what advice do you give in regards to just letting some dreams go, and I’ve given this a red hot shake and it’s not going to happen?

Rory Darkins
Oh, look, I have personal experience of that, because I’m talking to you as someone who didn’t play cricket for their country, who, as growing up, that’s what I wanted to do. And that process, there can be a grief in that because you’re letting go of a big part of who you’ve known yourself to be and a vision of the future that you’ve held. And it is obviously a very personal thing, and I think only the individual themselves can know what is the right thing for them, when is the right time to pivot. But what I will say on that is, well, with my personal example, was that not achieving that original vision that I had for myself in the way that I imagined it, actually pursuing it led me to something greater, that’s something that I love even more and something that feels even more aligned with who I am and it feels even more purposeful. And so I think if we can pursue what it is that we’re passionate about and that we want to do, it doesn’t totally matter whether it works out or not, because it can sometimes lead to other things working out that can be potentially more purposeful or even better. But I wouldn’t have got to that had I not pursued cricket. I wouldn’t have got to doing what I’m doing right now. And so I think there’s something to be said for pursuing it without needing to know if it’s going to work out. But then when it comes time to pivot, think of it as a pivot. It’s not like I’m going back to square one.It’s actually, you are using all of those experiences and all the growth that you gained in pursuing the original thing. That is a valuable asset that you can bring into the thing that you’re now going to focus on. And so nothing is wasted or lost if you are going about it in a way where you are constantly trying to learn about yourself and learn about how to get the best out of yourself. So that could help with the pivot.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Fantastic. Rory, we’ve been talking a lot, sometimes very explicitly, but often implicitly about a complex understanding of who we are, that we are about our performances, we are about our connections and relationships, we are about our dreams and our goals and our psychology. There is also the spiritual aspect of human existence, and the place of the things that we can’t control because they’re beyond our control, including things that are supernatural. You’re a person that holds to a faith, the place of faith and God in your life. Can you perhaps tell us a little bit about how did you come to be a person of faith?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Really through people. I met my wife, became my wife, when I was in my early twenties. And she’d grown up with a strong faith and I hadn’t grown up in church or anything like that. But it was getting to know her and then also getting to know Eloise, who we’ve talked about before, and kind of is really through those experiences and getting to know people that something kind of resonated with me about what I kind of felt like I was already intuitively kind of grasping or understanding or feeling, but then kind of gave some more concrete sort of terms and framework to work with. I was always curious about the big questions in life and how it all works and where does purpose and meaning and all that come from, and what makes everything that we experience be as it is? And I think what resonated with me was that, interestingly, I guess, the field of positive psychology that I gravitated to was a field called positive psychology, which is all about the question of what makes life worth living and what is the good? It is like the study of the good within humans. And I found that there’s a lot of overlap between that science and then the teachings around faith, so that it’s when we think about ourselves as we are unique individuals and that there is this goodness in people that can be nurtured and built upon and harnessed, I think. That was kind of where I saw the connection and kind of felt like it really resonated with me.

Brendan Corr
And in some of the conversation we’ve had, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but maybe there’s also that notion of the inherent frailty that is subject to a limited understanding of ourself or of our purpose or of how things are mapping out. Do you see that in the story of faith also?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, absolutely. We use the saying a lot and I think in our culture around “Things happen for a reason.” I know that sort of transcends a lot of frameworks, but I think that was quite pertinent for me, that when things didn’t work out, maybe there was a reason, that one door closed and another opened that I couldn’t see. And so I think definitely moving forward with a sense of faith and hope that you didn’t actually need to have it all figured out or be able to control everything in order to have a deep optimism about what was around the corner and a sense of peace about what was coming. That was definitely a core part of my story and experience of sort of, I guess, living in such an unknown, like pursuing things where I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and moving countries and not knowing what that was going to look like or whether it was the right decision and all of that. And it’s really just trusting that, no, I feel something about this. This feels like the right thing to do. And so I haven’t just manufactured that feeling. There’s something to that that’s bigger than me, so let’s go with it.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. That’s great. So what I’m hearing you say there is that having God now involved in your life and helping set some of the aspirations and the directions, it’s another… We talk only taking the pressure off of this. It’s all up to me. If it’s going to be, it’s up to me. That there is now a different scope of having a sense of peace and purpose in your life?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. Definitely less need for control. Definitely, like I joked earlier that I was kind of passionate but probably obsessive about my pursuits with sport. And I think the line between passion and obsession is an interesting one, but the difference is the sense of who’s in control. And I think when it becomes obsessive, it’s like this clinging to it, this clinging to an outcome and feeling like the activity itself is sort of compelling you to always think about it and always do it, whereas when you’re passionate, but without that need to cling and hold on and control everything, you’re passionate from a much more trusting place that, “Hey, I don’t have to be in control all the time. I can just do my best in each moment.” And let’s see, let’s be curious about where that leads. I think that was sort of a big shift for me that has been. And even going into kind of entrepreneurial activities later on, it’s like when you do a startup business, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what the path of that’s going to be. And so it’s very much the same thing of just taking the best next step and then trusting that things happen for a reason and you’ll be able to be guided along the way.

Brendan Corr
Well, that’s a great segue-way into the next part of the question I wanted to ask of you. Sport, achievement, all that world of demonstrable success, what parallel, what connections does it have with being a good father and a husband, a business person? Where do you measure or how do you get towards success in those other parts of the complexity of our human existence?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, I think in the question is actually a really key point, and that is how do we define success? And I’ve come to learn that success is, for me, defined as being the person that I want to be. It’s not so defined by what are the outcomes of that, of I guess what we’d typically think of as a success in society is measured in those other ways. And so when success is being the person you want to be, then that naturally just involves all areas; as a parent, in your business relationships, your activities and your friendships. It’s not a different answer necessarily across those different things. It’s like, am I being who I want to be? And am I moving towards what’s most important to me? If that’s success, then success is available every day. You don’t have to wait for an Olympics or any kind of equivalent on that in order to see if you’re successful or not.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s really great. And that’s where the qualities of faith we were talking about earlier comes in, isn’t it? Who do I want to be? I want to be like Jesus, I want to be that disciple that’s in the same love and the same generosity and the same freedom that he incarnated in a way.

Rory Darkins
Yeah. In positive psychology they’ll talk about a similar thing in the lens of character strengths. It’s saying, there are these character strengths and virtues that are some of the best parts of being human, some of the best qualities that we have. And it’s about utilising those, it’s about, whether it’s humility or whether it’s love, or whether it’s creativity or kindness, it’s actually aspiring to cultivate and utilise those virtues, those qualities. And so much is what it means to be the person that you want to be is to kind of embody those qualities.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. That’s great. Rory, I know that you’ve harnessed a lot of your thinking, experience and research in some technology. Do you want to talk to us a little about how that’s manifesting in your deep well-being app?

Rory Darkins
Yeah. So the transition from sport to studying the science of well-being and performance kind of led me to realise that it’s all very well to do what I did and read all the books and be really passionate about all these topics and do that deep dive. But what about people who don’t have time for that, or don’t want to spend years studying that? How can anyone be guided to cultivate the best version of themselves and to optimise their well-being and their definition of success? And so with that, technology seemed to be part of the answer because it means that we can make it accessible anywhere, anytime. And so that’s what led me to co-found an app called In8, which is I-N and then the number eight. And the In8 app is really a personalised guide to building what we’ve identified as eight areas of well-being. And so it will, through a daily conversation on your iPhone, it’ll ask you a bunch of questions, it’ll measure a few things and help you to set your priorities for the day and help you to determine what sort of person do you want to be today? And so just through that daily process, it will learn about you at your best. It’ll learn about how you’re going in different areas of your well-being. And it’ll help you to learn how to optimise those areas of your well-being. So the eight areas are your strengths, which we’ve touched on before, those positive qualities that help you as a unique individual to be at your best. Your values, so the principles that matter most to you. Your mindset, so the mindset and mental skills that we’ve touched on in this conversation. And also purpose, where does purpose come from for you as a unique human being? Your purpose is going to look different to you, as it does to me. So those are the first four, and then the other four are your health. We’ve got your needs. So there’s psychological needs that we all have, that if we can satisfy and really build on, they help our well-being. Things like connection. We need to connect with other people and have strong relationships. There’s our breath, which is probably the most underrated aspect of our well-being and performance, is that the way we breathe is influencing our well-being and performance, either positively or negatively. And it’s a skill set that we can improve and utilise. And then lastly, our emotions. So how are we feeling? How are you feeling and how can you build great emotional health and also the ability to navigate the complex emotions that come with being human? So those are the eight areas.

Brendan Corr
Now, we have been talking very broadly well-being, psychology of well-being. We’ve got students who are listening to this, we’ve probably also got their parents. The app, is that targeted to a particular audience? Is it a general audience that could make use of that?

Rory Darkins
Yeah, we’ve done a lot of testing with teenagers and also adults. And what we’ve found is that it is best suited to anyone who is wanting to grow. So anyone who’s willing to put in five minutes a day to go through the daily check-in that the app gives you, where it asks you those questions about what’s important to you today and how you’re feeling and learning why. And so, as long as you’re driven to improve your well-being or show up better in life, and you’re willing to utilise something like this regularly, it doesn’t have to be every day, but it’s ideally, it’s a regular thing, a regular part of your day, then the benefits really come from what you do with that knowledge. So if it helps you to clarify what your priorities are and the sort of person you want to be that day, then the benefit really comes from how you then go out and do that. And so, it works well for anyone who’s willing to think of well-being and in the same way as they think about physical fitness, that it’s not something that you just. You don’t just go for one run and expect to be fit, you make it a regular habit. And it doesn’t take much but it does take consistency in order to really go a long way.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Rory, that was an area that I was hoping we might have got a chance to speak to. We might have to ask you back for another session to talk about how do you learn habits and self-disciplines into routine that support these sorts of aspirations?

Rory Darkins
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Any last words that you’d like to give to the people who are listening today about how they can do a better job or start to do a job of looking after their sense of well-being and their purpose?

Rory Darkins
The app is actually free to start using. It’s only on the iPhone at the moment on the app store, and for the paid version of it, there’s a three-month free trial right now as well. So there’s really no barrier to trying something like this out. And so, because of that, what I’d recommend is that people, if you’ve got an iPhone, just give it a go and give yourself at least a week of doing it every day and just seeing what happens. In a more broad answer, say, if you don’t want to use the app or anything like that, a broad answer would be just to think about and kind of tune into giving yourself the same guidance that you would give a best friend or someone that you really care about. Because often we’re so critical about ourselves, and the voice in our head can be quite critical and hold us back. Whereas, if we were just to think beyond ourselves for a minute and think about, well, if my best friend was in this situation, what would I say to them? Suddenly, we can start taking better advice from ourselves and also speaking to ourselves in a more healthy way. So that would be a practise that I would encourage anyone to consider, is how are you speaking to yourself? And does it sound like the way you’d speak to someone you really care about?

Brendan Corr
Amen. My thoughts stay ahead to the notion of where we were touching on some aspects of faith, to say God wants the best for you too. And there’s no condemnation, always a tomorrow and another go. Rory Darkins, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and well done on having navigated the complexities of your life and your story to lead you to the place where you can bring so much help to other people.

Rory Darkins
Ah, thanks, Brendan. Thanks so much. And I hope it’s been helpful to anyone listening. I wish you all the best in your well-being and for becoming who you want become.

Brendan Corr
Thanks, Rory.

Rory Darkins
Thank you.

Rory Darkins

About Rory Darkins

Rory Darkins, is a positive psychology researcher, speaker and high performance coach who is passionate about well-being and peak-performance. Rory has a diverse sporting background, having spent several years travelling the world pursuing professional cricket before settling in Sydney where he is now based. Rory is also a competitive runner and has competed internationally in Surf Lifesaving 2km beach run events and trained with national and olympic-level runners. Since 2014, Rory has worked with elite, professional and Olympic athletes from numerous sports in his role as a high performance conditioning coach with Jock Athletic. This pursuit of personal excellence is what first sparked Rory’s interest in the mental side of sport. Like many athletes, he wanted to know how to get the best out of himself so he took a keen interest in the stories of successful athletes and completed his Psychology degrees whilst travelling with sport.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).