If you’re a committed athlete, I’m sure you watch your favorite professional or Olympic athletes compete, whether LeBron, Serena, Tom, or Simone. Or you watch videos of them training on YouTube. Or you hear an interview with them in which they talk about their efforts, challenges, and successes. Or you read their autobiography. How do you feel after? Well, inspiration, right? What a great feeling! You’re fired up and ready to take on the world. You’re brimming with determination and confidence. Your eye is on the prize – you want to be as successful as they are – and, by gosh, that prize is yours!
Then something rather deflating happens. You wake up the next morning and the inspiration is gone. You’re still the same old you. Same commitment, confidence, and effort. And you may even feel worse about yourself because, after the previous day’s inspiration, your failure to step it up to be like those sports superstars is all the more glaring.
So, what happened? The truth is that you, and innumerable other athletes looking for inspiration to achieve their lofty goals, have been led to believe that inspiration can be manufactured from the outside. That you can just watch, read, or listen to a great athlete and their drive and determination will somehow be magically transferred into you. Unfortunately, this “synthetic” inspiration simply can’t last long because when the source of the inspiration (i.e. the video, interview, film, or book) is gone, that so-called inspiration fades.
Also, the inspiration that comes external sources is designed to provoke maximum emotions, but provide minimal follow-through. The reality is that inspiration is a necessary, but not sufficient, contributor to pursuing your goals. Yes, inspiration may get you out of bed or off of the sofa, but motivation to succeed without a clear direction, means, or support to take action toward your goals has little value.
Okay, I will give a little and say that it is theoretically possible for inspiration from others to motivate you to achieve your goals. You may be part of a small segment of athletes teetering on the edge of finding their own motivation may get the nudge of inspiration they need from outside of themselves to put them over the top. Or the inspiration generated from the outside is very immediate, deep, and resonant, such as the courageous efforts of a struggling athlete.
Our culture venerates the inspirational leader, whether a politician, military officer, teacher, or coach. There are some who have the ability to inspire others to new heights. Nelson Mandela had it in spades. General George Patton had it. So, did the teacher John Keating, played by the late Robin Williams in the film, Dead Poets Society. And the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had it big time. But the “it” that these and others had was not, as most people think, their ability to create that burst of inspiration during a battle, a class, or the big game. Instead, what makes the great inspirational leaders so, well, inspirational is their ability to help others find their own personal inspiration every day.
But, in general, true and lasting inspiration can’t, unfortunately, come from outside. It must arise from a very deep place within you. This inspiration is grounded in who you are and what you want, and it absolutely forces its way out of you, demanding that you take action. This internally fueled inspiration makes not giving it everything you’ve got an impossibility because it would mean not being true to yourself. That is the inspiration that propels great athletes to monumental acts of courage, willpower, perseverance, and, ultimately, success.
So, next time you want to feel that wonderful rush of inspiration, go ahead and watch an inspirational movie, read an inspirational book, or listen to an inspirational athlete. But if you want real inspiration, the kind that will consume every pore of your body, sustain itself not only through the next morning, but many mornings to come, and drives you to achieve your athletic goals, look deep inside and see if you can find it in you. If you do, then you’ll be able to devote all that time and energy that you would have spent on that manufactured inspiration to rewarding yourself for having achieved your goals because you found the real thing already inside of you.
Jim Taylor, Ph.D. is sports psychologist who has worked with the US Olympic committee and with professional, Olympic, collegiate, and junior-elite athletes in, football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, golf, ski racing, and many other sports. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Sports Management program at the University of San Francisco. A former internationally ranked alpine ski racer, Jim is a certified tennis coach, a 2nd degree black belt and certified instructor in karate, a marathon runner, and an Ironman triathlete. To see more articles, vlogs, books, online courses and programs by Dr. Taylor, go to http://www.drjimtaylor.com/4.0/