With modern athletes seeming to break every conceivable track, field and other sporting record as of late, it seems that the bar is constantly being raised with regard to what we as humans can achieve. As a professional athlete and coach, it makes me incredibly proud to see so many of my clients wanting to get in there and give it their very best to push past perceived limitations. With this in mind, this blog will discuss how you can overcome certain common psychological barriers that may be preventing you from achieving your very best. Let’s take a look.
Make hard work a part of your life’s philosophy
Love or loathe him, the world’s best pound for pound boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr, is the ultimate example of an athlete who understands the meaning of working hard to achieve your goals. His now world famous mantra of “Hard Work and Dedication!” is a testament to what anyone can achieve if they are prepared to give what it takes to make their dreams a reality and his unblemished record is proof of the results this philosophy can produce.
Committing long hours and sacrificing those guilty pleasures in exchange for arduous and brutal training sessions, will undoubtedly pay dividends in the end. Natural ability may give you that edge over a competitor, but if not honed, nurtured and polished through hard work, you’ll have no chance of crossing that finish line first. You have to be willing to go beyond what others are prepared to do and put in the long hours of hard training to materialize your goal.
Make everyday a learning day
As humans, we’re all programmed to learn from the day we’re born until we reach our twilight years. While arguably no one remembers their first baby steps, we all had to learn how to put one foot in front of the other and make it across the living room into mum or dad’s proud arms. Now, imagine you gave up on conquering those first few steps as a toddler; can you imagine how you would have faced every other subsequent challenge that came your way?
Learning is a part of life. Those who embrace the often frustrating and time-consuming effort it takes to learn new habits, routines or training methods are those who position themselves for long term success. So don’t become complacent when it comes to your growth and development as an athlete, professional or an individual. Always assume that there’s more to something you’ve already mastered and look for ways to improve upon past achievements. This is what separates the champions from the runners-up.
Be clear about motivations
From the early days of human evolution, our brains were wired to protect us. Primitive humans faced a plethora of daily dangers just to survive, and by survive I mean avoiding the claws of a long toothed sabre or some other terrifying predator. Depending on who you ask, not much has changed since those early days of our existence.
Fortunately, modern man lives in far less dangerous environments, yet our brains are still wired to avoid dangerous or uncomfortable situations, whether it be getting knocked over by a bus, a career setback or social embarrassment. That’s where the all-too-familiar angst-ridden voice in our heads comes from. However, as intelligent and evolving creatures, we’ve got to apply reason and rationality to those unwelcome mental intrusions, especially when buying into them seems like the more convenient option.
When that voice starts to list all the reasons you shouldn’t pursue a new journey in life, stop for a second and examine it. Pay attention to your thinking patterns and pre-empt negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Replace negative thought streams with rational and calm internal dialogue that addresses disarms fears and you’ll soon find the courage to stay the course.
The same goes for the people you surround yourself with. People often don’t want to see others succeed because if they do, then what does it say about them….? Stay true to your motivations, keep that internal dialogue going and always remain honest with yourself and that long list of excuses will soon transform into positive reinforcements that give you that extra oomph! when you need it the most.
Be willing to get knocked down
Getting get knocked down doesn’t say much about you; it’s how you get up that determines the calibre of person you are, so welcome setbacks as opportunities for your personal growth. Instead of looking at the first bump in the road as an excuse to turn around and head home, use it as an opportunity to inform your game plan and adjust your strategy.
I can tell you that if it weren’t for the many setbacks I experienced throughout my personal life and career, that I wouldn’t be where I am today. In fact, I am thankful for those difficult and dark moments in my life as they helped me to really understand who I am and what I am truly capable of.
Take heed of the lessons that lie hidden in your setbacks to uncover where things went wrong and go back to the drawing board - don’t just quit! Any star athlete or business leader will tell you that if it weren’t for the failures they encountered they wouldn’t be in the positions they are today. We all know the story of how Steve Jobs started, lost and reclaimed a little tech startup called Apple Inc. and ended up building one of the most beloved global brands known to the world.
Trust yourself, the experts aren’t always right
I recall the absolute horror I felt when learning about my mum’s aneurysm and the anticipated long term effects it would have on her quality of life. Medical experts basically told my family that the toll of the aneurysm would incapacitate her both mentally and physically. While the news was devastating, I simply couldn’t accept that there was no way of getting her health back to a level where she was able to enjoy life again.
It took tons of research, countless consultations with experts, heated arguments with naysayers and even battles with my own sense of despair, but today, after exhausting every conceivable avenue, my mum is able to enjoy a quality of life that no one thought would be possible. This, very personal experience has taught me to believe in myself and follow through on my beliefs, however far fetched they may seem to others.
I hope that you too may find that inner strength when the world seems pitted against you and your dreams and that your resolution to achieve your very best will carry you through in the end. Now get out there and achieve greatness!