Will.Power.

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.

-Vince Lombardi

I just read an article in the New York Times that delineated the qualities of mental prowess possessed by elite athletes. Their mental stamina, their ability to push beyond the mental limits where physical pain and psychological torture reside, is a hallmark of every successful person.

I believe that the principles of success are learned and acquired through any undertaking that requires a great deal of struggle. Without the struggle, without embracing the hardship, there is no virtue to be gleaned. As an athlete, there is no way around this struggle. When the time comes for competition, the corollary of your daily perseverance will shine for all to see. Whereas one can get by doing the minimum and appearing to excel in more relative matters such as business and school, there is no escaping the public eyes of the arena in athletic competition. You cannot hide the deficiencies you failed to confront and develop. Come time for competition, all your short-cuts, all your breaks, all your excuses and rational for stopping short are exposed for all to see. When the competition is over, a competitor can look on his performance in one of two ways: they can hold their head high, proud of their unfailing allegiance to the will;  or they can shirk and shrink inward and displace the blame, not on their own failures and lack of will, but on things outside their control. Only one of these two competitors will continue succeeding.

“I was given a body that could train every single day.” Tom said, “and a mind, a mentality, that believed that if I trained every day — and I could train every day — I’ll beat you.”

“The mentality was I will do whatever it takes to win,” he added. “I was totally willing to have the worst pain. I was totally willing to do whatever it takes to win the race.”

This is why elite athletes have such a developed sense of will. They recognize that there is no escaping responsibility. They refuse to make excuses. Their only refuge is knowing that will conquers all. It is the starting point for all capacities of human development.

The article discussed visualization. As a firm believer in visualization, I was intrigued by the contrast between amateur competitors and elite athletes.

In studies of college runners, [Raglin] found that less accomplished athletes tended to dissociate, to think of something other than their running to distract themselves.“Sometimes dissociation allows runners to speed up, because they are not attending to their pain and effort,” he said. “But what often happens is they hit a sort of physiological wall that forces them to slow down, so they end up racing inefficiently in a sort of oscillating pace.” But association, Dr. Raglin says, is difficult, which may be why most don’t do it.

When I read this, I think of a responsibility avoidance. There is a fear that prevents these athletes from embracing the pain and struggle. They fail to size-up the challenge and accept the burden of responsibility for its attainment. By contrast:

“Our hypothesis is that elite athletes are able to motivate themselves continuously and are able to run the gantlet between pushing too hard — and failing to finish — and underperforming,” Dr. Swart said

To find this motivation, the athletes must resist the feeling that they are too tired and have to slow down, he added. Instead, they have to concentrate on increasing the intensity of their effort. That, Dr. Swart said, takes “mental strength,” but “allows them to perform close to their maximal ability.”

Elite athletes find the boundary where their limitations reside. They practice reaching that boundary, that fluid limitation, on a routine basis. They know it well by inspecting its character and uncovering its various strongholds on potential. They become comfortable and familiar with its discomforts, continually dancing the line of what their current capacities can handle, and what their will demands of potential and possibility. When the time for competition arrives, this boundary of limitation will whiz by in the periphery, acting as nothing more than a reminder that all boundaries are meant to be crossed. Success, and traversing the limits that lead you there, are a matter of will.

Conceive. Believe. Achieve.

You must see where you want to be, visualize its nature, its pains and joys. You must conceive a world where you are already there, a world of possibility where time is your only enemy. You must believe that your potential is limitless, that you will win, that you will not lose. Only then will you gravitate toward this vision of success and achieve your ends. If you cannot conceive possibility, if you cannot believe in yourself and your ability to inevitably succeed, you will never achieve.

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