As a teenager, Danielle Brown felt heartbreak as her body started failing her and she suddenly became disabled. But instead of feeling consumed by grief, she decided to adopt a growth mindset and break down barriers to become a world champion. Now aged 34, Danielle doesn’t want to be remembered for her gold medals alone but rather her message that “when the going gets tough, you have a choice”. You can choose to let the things outside your control defeat you, or choose to control how you respond. Another key message she wishes to share is that gender is irrelevant when chasing dreams and world podium spots.
It was at the age of 11 when Brown’s life changed. Her feet started hurting and over time she found herself “struggling to walk”. She has since used crutches to walk, or a wheelchair on “harder days”.
This disability meant it was too painful to take part in some of the sports she loved.
She was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This is a poorly understood condition where a person experiences chronic, debilitating pain. It can be a disorder of the nervous system. It can also be the result of an injury.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she focused on what she could do, not what she couldn’t do.
Aged 15, her growth mindset propelled her to try archery and she fell in love with the sport. She took to it naturally.
Three years later she was on the Great Britain team, where she became World Number 1 and has managed to hang onto this position for her career. She is a 5-time World Champion and double Paralympic gold medallist, winning gold in Beijing in 2008 and retaining her title at home in London in 2012. She also became the first disabled person to represent England as an able-bodied competitor at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where she won gold.
During her sports journey she found not only practising was key to winning, but believing in herself was paramount.
She has since made it her mission as an author to inspire children to believe in themselves, gain confidence and not give up, even when things get tough.
Her most recent children’s book, Run Like A Girl, was recently launched in New Zealand. She was here for a book publicity tour, and holiday with her Kiwi-born partner. This book won the Sunday Times Children’s Sports Book of the Year 2022. The book inspires young readers to break down gender stereotypes and to get girls to change the way they think of the phrase “like a girl”.
“You can run like a girl, catch like a girl, and throw like a girl and win like a girl”.
The book includes 50 extraordinary and varied successful sportswomen from all over the world including New Zealand’s very own world champion shot putter, Valerie Adams. The book showcases female sports stars including dancers, swimmers and cricketers. Interesting facts are shared about each successful athlete on their sporting prowess. But the pages don’t just showcase each athlete’s strengths; they reveal some of their struggles too. Through the pages, you learn what barriers they have had to break through to propel themselves to the top.
A key message from the book is to embrace self-belief and “get up, don’t give up”. Danielle reminds readers that all these female superstars started from scratch and worked hard to become successful. And if they could overcome barriers to succeed, you can too.
5 Top Tips on How to Set Big Goals from Danielle Brown:
1. Choose big and exciting goals.
“If you want to achieve a goal you need to get off your backside and pile in the effort to achieve it. If you’re passionate about what you do then you will want to invest your time and effort into it, which helps you to continuously get better at it. Setting a big goal that really excites you will leave you wanting to leap out of the bed in the morning and helps you to keep on track when things get tough”.
2. Break it down. “Progress can fluctuate. When it’s going great, we’re all good. But when things are moving slowly it can get super frustrating. You’re not supposed to achieve a big goal in one go. So setting smaller milestones along the way lets us check where we are and adapt the plan if we need to. This gets us to focus on the important stuff – what we need to do in order to get there. Remember, even small steps take us forward. On those tough days, progress, no matter how small, is helping us move in the right direction”.
3. Celebrate success. “Often we can be so focused on the outcome that we forget to enjoy the journey. Instead of just looking forward to where we want to go, we also need to take time to look back and celebrate how far we’ve come. This is about appreciating all the positive stuff, no matter how small, so acknowledge the tiny wins and mini milestones on the way. This is a great way of building our confidence and redefining what we consider success to be”.
4. Stay grateful. “When we focus on the things that we have got rather than the things we haven’t it lets us deal with stress better. When we see the positives in all situations it prevents us from escalating issues into apocalyptic proportions, and makes it easier for us to find solutions. Gratitude makes us more resilient, more confident and generally happier and healthier, and it can be easy to develop. At the end of every day think about three things that you are grateful for. Even when your day hasn’t quite gone to plan, drawing out the small blessings, the tiny wins and the progress we made has a huge impact. Writing this down is more powerful as it helps us remember them more clearly”.
5. Don’t wait until the time is just right. “There is no perfect moment. Life doesn’t have a pause button just so you can launch that project, work on your personal development, or start making headway on that dream goal. It’s not about having everything fall into place and line up nice and neatly, but about creating opportunities to make it happen. And yet it’s so easy to fall into the trap of making excuses. We can think of all the reasons why now isn’t the best time, why we should put it off, why we aren’t ready. Instead of focusing on this, look at the actions you need to take to get the job done”.