The rest of society can take their lead from elite cycling when it comes to sacrificing one’s own desires for the collective good of others and no-one knows this better than 2016 Australian Cyclist of the Year Mathew Hayman. It is hard to subjugate your career for someone else to succeed, but for much of his professional career this is exactly what Hayman has selflessly done.  At 38 years of age, when many athletes are thinking of retiring Hayman turned 2016 into his own, winning the world’s most gruelling one day road race – the Paris Roubaix.

Tour de France Winner Cadel Evans praised Mathew Hayman’s 2016 Paris Roubaix win as a “monumental” win for one of Australia’s most dedicated athletes. 

Of his own performance Hayman said,  “I am not sure myself how I pulled it off…I was pretty calm in the final and I was prepared to lose.”

Sacrificing for others is a strategy Mathew Hayman has used to build and outstanding career, often as domestique selflessly supporting other riders in their striving for victory, occasionally for himself.  A long career has seen Hayman win a World Championship medal, a Commonwealth Games victory and now the Paris Roubaix.  Hayman cares a lot about his cycling, but the altruistic nature of his riding bathes his brain in neurochemical oxytocin that helps dampens too much adrenaline and protects him against emotional burnout and when the opportunity presents itself, a chance for him to shine.   

When we care less for ourselves and more for others the brain rewards us.  Not only do our efforts help those we are dedicated towards supporting, but in doing so we help ourselves.  With more oxytocin circulating through the brain, fear subsides and athlete is free to compete to the best of their ability.  Our Olympic swimmers commented on the same phenomenon when they disclosed earlier this year that it was easier being part of a relay team than swimming as an individual.  Oxytocin is our love neurochemical, it dampens fear and helps move us towards action especially when it involves others we care about.  No athlete should leave home without it!!!

Read more Hayman's journey and the psychological insights of many of Australia's elite athletes in "Wired to Play: The Metacognitive Athlete".