Life has its ups and downs, and being an athlete gives no exception to the challenges of daily life. One thing that is true for every person on earth is that there’ll be days that you don’t feel 100%.
Call them what you may, (I call them my 20% days) you are going to get them at some point and how you deal with your uninspiring moments will determine how well you adapt to and overcome challenges during your professional life.
Moreover, an essential trait of any outstanding sportsman is the ability to maintain high levels of motivation throughout their careers – the stuff Olympic gold medalists are made of.
The good news is, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel the same way at some point in their careers, but the steps they took to overcome it made all the difference. I’d like to share a few tips that I’ve applied to my daily life to keep smugness and inertia in check.
In practice, any activity you engage in will require some level of motivation and grit to begin and see through to completion. It also makes sense that occasionally, you will feel unenthusiastic about the activities you were once so passionate about. Interestingly, it’s at these times that you develop the actual mental resilience you need to succeed.
See the Big Picture
Usain Bolt might be my favorite athlete of all time. The grace with which the 6 foot 5 champ dashed on the tracks from start to finish always captivated me. He was a real delight to watch.
In one of his many interviews, he was asked the secrets to his massive success, and he mentioned the ability to see the whole picture of what you are trying to achieve. For him being number one was more than just adding to his collection of gold medals. It was a victory for his home country, Jamaica.
This is a major key to staying focused and motivated at all times because your ability to see the big picture will constrain you to the path of real success, and ultimately keep you centered on achieving your goals.
Your subconscious mind goes into overdrive when you see yourself achieving your full potential, plus for a worthy cause. I have found that this goes for every person out there.
One great way to get yourself into this frame of mind is thinking back to when you just got started with sports – brimming with energy. What were your motivations for starting?
Two important questions to ask yourself regularly:
Why do I do what I do?
What am I ultimately trying to achieve?
Reality checks like these will undoubtedly jolt you back to action whenever you need that extra push, and no one is around to motivate you because, at some point between feeling unmotivated about your life and thinking back to those life-defining decisions, you’d rediscover your motivations and rebound back to action in no time.
Its okay to take a break…
As an athlete, you need to push yourself (sometimes beyond your mental limits) when you train. It’s pretty easy to keep at it all the time and forget to physically and mentally disengage when you need to. Particularly if you’re the melancholic (perfectionist) type, it’s difficult to see yourself as a true winner when you’re always working at it.
My friend, Greg once said ‘Sometimes you need to leave to make a comeback.’ That stuck with me. It’s okay to take some time off from all the work to just RELAX.
However, taking a break means different things to different people. It comes down to discovering what helps you de-stress and makes you just enjoy your life at the moment. For me, it’s hanging out with friends, or traveling to a new city to see the beautiful landscape. These sort of activities help me RELAX. When I do this, I find that I come back feeling re-energized and ready to take on the world.
Taking a break has social benefits also. It also helps you make out more time for the people in your life, which is increasingly difficult to do these days. (We are busier people than ever in this new millennium)
I watched a stellar TED talk recently that accurately explains the power of what you focus on. It was by Reggie Rivers at TEDx Crestmoor Park ED. Reggie said ‘If you want to achieve your goals, then don’t focus on them!” This may sound counter-intuitive because we have been taught to manage our time, focus on achieving our targets/objectives within strict timeframes without really focusing on the behaviors that lead to the results that we want.
What I took away from the TED talk was that goals require you to have the participation of other people. Therefore they are outside of your control. Behaviors, by contrast, are the things that you can do without help from anyone else that directly influence outcomes.
For example, if you want to win the prize for the best sprinter at your school, rather than spending all your time focusing on the prize, you should be more invested in developing the behaviors and habits that lead to winning the prize.
For example, an athlete that wants to win gold at the Olympics will require not just a desire to win but undergo a rigorous daily training routine and develop a tremendous amount of self-discipline. You should change your focus from ‘prize-consciousness’ to a ‘behavioral consciousness.’ that will up your motivation levels.
How often do you take out time to celebrate your successes? You need to understand that little achievements are still successes, the only key is doing so when it is appropriate. You have no business celebrating mediocrity. Also celebrating yourself doesn’t mean you are resting on your oars.
It merely means you value each step on the way to achieving your dreams. Sport is not just about winning; it’s about discovering yourself in the process. There are many ways to reward yourself. But it should only be done to celebrate achieving a milestone, or set goal.
Summing It Up
Staying motivated and well exercised is a lifelong habit for any successful athlete. It’s good to know when you need to just take a break. Refocus on what got you started in the first place, celebrate your successes and see things from the right perspective. It’s also great to know that there is a universality component to the challenges we face on a daily basis.