Ever feel like you’re struggling to get through that one critical change in your business or life? That change that will make you a winner? Maybe you want to drop weight, or gain muscle. Maybe you feel rejected by friends or loved ones, or you see that others are growing their businesses faster than you. Whatever the case may be, you’re feeling stuck. So let’s look at lessons from athletes on how to find the motivation and strength to finally make change happen.
You’ve got to push past the pain of changing.
Change is hard. Period. Change is painful and it makes us terribly uncomfortable.
As soon as we start feeling or even just anticipating the discomfort that comes with pain, we pull back. It doesn’t have to be physical pain. It can be emotional discomfort, fear of getting hurt and so on.
But change only happens when we find ways to push through that discomfort. Change only starts happening when you push through pain, not when you avoid it. Elite athletes are champions at this tough mental game. They really know how to not let discomfort stop them from achieving their goals.
Let me make it clear. I’m not talking about working out through an injury. Or causing yourself pain and discomfort unnecessarily. I’m talking about becoming comfortable with growing pains and accepting discomfort as a normal part of life. You can choose to see it as a positive thing – as a reason for positive change, or you can choose to see it as gloom and doom and give up.
So how do athletes keep going even when it gets painfully hard? How do they push through that discomfort to get the win?
They compete with themselves
Elite athletes may want to overthrow whoever is in the lead, but on an everyday basis, they compete with themselves not other people. They are constantly testing themselves, wanting to break their personal records. For us, at home or in business, we have no idea what our potential is because we rarely test ourselves to see how much we can handle. We often don’t want to test ourselves unless we’re guaranteed we’ll get something from it.
“Sports doctors who have looked into the question say that, at the very least, most people could do a lot better if they knew what it took to do their best.”
They try the course before running the race
Studies have shown that when athletes don’t know how long the race is going to be, they end up underperforming. The same can be said for life. Whatever your goal is, map out what it would take to get there and see what it might take for you to achieve that goal to get the best results.
One trick is to try a course before racing it. In one study, Dr. Swart told trained cyclists to ride as hard as they could over a 40-kilometer course. The more familiar they got with the course, the faster they rode, even though — to their minds — it felt as if they were putting out maximal effort on every attempt.
Then Dr. Swart and his colleagues asked the cyclists to ride the course with all-out effort, but withheld information about how far they’d gone and how far they had to go. Subconsciously, the cyclists held back the most in this attempt, leaving some energy in reserve.
They resist the feeling of being tired and instead focus on increasing intensity
Elite athletes reject the idea that being tired means you have to stop. Instead they focus on what they can do. They focus on increasing intensity.
“Our hypothesis is that elite athlete 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.”
So, instead of telling yourself you can’t do something, focus on what you can do and increase the intensity there. You may be surprised by what you can accomplish.
They expect and accept discomfort
Athletes know that pain is part of the process – they expect and accept that it will happen. Think about what your process will look like: What can you expect on your journey, and how can you work toward acceptance?
They are obsessive about recovery
For peak performance, athletes take recovery just as seriously as training. In fact, recovery takes more time than training and involves everything from sleep, to what you eat, and even meditation. Andrew Read described the formula the success formula as Training Effect = Work x Recovery. Here is an article that shows you how complex an athlete’s recovery protocol can get.
In business, we keep going and doing and forget to invest in recovery activities. We work long hours and neglect our bodies by eating poorly, not sleeping, not exercising and not even taking proper vacations.
Take some time out, take a digital detox day, be kind to yourself and you’ll see your performance improve.
Five lessons from athletes to take with you.
These five lessons from athletes will help you in any area of your life where you feel stuck. You’ve got to push past the hard parts in order to grow, get better, and help you achieve your goals.