Paralympian swimmer and Northampton High School alumna Eleanor Robinson MBE shares some of the secrets of her success.
Always ask ‘why’ and ‘how’.
It’s good to challenge ideas. Challenging ideas helps you to find out what is true and what isn’t. I don’t just take what I’m told as a given. If popular opinion is going to be shaping the world in which I work and play, I want to be sure that it’s rational. Ask yourself, what sort of world would you like to live in? How are we going to get to that world? Is today’s public opinion going to get us there? Each time you come across a claim, ask ‘why?’ ‘Why is that the case?’ ‘Why is that a good thing?’ Ask yourself ‘How?’ ‘How do we know that?’ ‘How has that been measured?’
Knowledge really is power—quite simply in the way that you interact with people. Knowledge can give you immense strength in conversation. Strength gives you confidence, and confident people are compelling. Conviction makes people listen; reason earns people’s respect.
Explore every avenue
I remember the first time I dressed up as ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’. An author, with a beret and a scarf, and some fine-rimmed glasses with the lenses poked out. I also remember the following costumes: an optician, a psychologist, a hospital specialist. A sports agent, a music agent, a music producer. Head of marketing for a Formula One team, a media presenter and an advertiser.
What set me on the History & Politics pathway was watching history documentaries in lockdown. What began as a temporary hobby became the beginning of a new career path. So while you are finding your way, open yourself up to every possibility. Every field and every subject. Don’t put pressure on yourself and don’t fear a change of plan. Very often, when life doesn’t go according to plan, it goes somewhere even better.
“Your will is in your corner, fighting for you, and it’s ruthless. So exercise it.”
Never forget that you are in control
Hopelessness is a soul destroying feeling. It’s enough to make even the toughest of fighters wave the white flag. What is so especially cruel about it is that once you recognise yourself to be in a hopeless state, it only makes your actions feel more futile. It’s a spiral that so many people become trapped within – or at least they believe that they are.
Think of your greatest ambition. The one that you yearn for the most. It doesn’t matter how high or how far into the future you are aiming – just think of it. Are you going to let go of it? Let yourself be defeated? Suppress the will deep inside you? Your will is in your corner, fighting for you, and it’s ruthless. So exercise it. Make it your heart and soul, during this period of struggle. Be as stubborn and as ruthless as it wants you to be. Do whatever it takes to make your ambitions a reality. While you still have a desire, you always have control.
Paralympian swimmer and Northampton High School alumna Eleanor Robinson MBE holds the World record and the Paralympic record in the S6 50m butterfly and the World record in the 100m, setting both at the age of 13. In 2016, she won a gold and bronze medal at the Rio Paralympics, ending the year as the winner of the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. At the Tokyo Paralympic Games last summer, Eleanor finished fifth in the S6 50 metres butterfly final, retiring from competitive swimming at the end of last year due to injury. She is currently studying for a History and Politics degree with the Open University.