In every walk of life, whether it be sport, exercise, work or the relationships we have with others, it can be tough to keep motivated – tough to keep going in the face of adversity. So what are the habits of highly successful sports people that set them apart from everyone else?
Here are just a few examples. Let us know another stories if you have them.
Davy Fitzgerald on persistence and visualisation
Earlier this year Davy Fitz gave a brilliant talk at LIT about life, bullying, overcoming difficulty and pretty much everything else you can think of. One of his many great stories was this tale about how he reacted to being dropped from the Clare team in 1992:
I remember in 1992 I was on the Clare hurling team and I got dropped. Your man rang me to say 'Davy your dropped.' [I was] Devastated.
What did I do? I wouldn't take no for an answer.
The fella who took my place used to be passing Sixmilebridge every day. I'd know he'd be going past at 8 o'clock in the morning so I used to get on my bike and I'd go down to this wall and I'd be there at ten to eight when he'd be passing and when he'd be coming home from work at 20 past four, I'd be there at 20 past four.
I wanted him to see that no matter what he did I was going to get my place back.
He tells another story about the importance of visualisation and switching off
Ten days before we play any game I will visualise every day, three times a day for 20 minutes ...
... I believe it's very important every day to take a small bit of time for yourself. Sport is important but also just them few minutes; maybe switch off for five or ten minutes and then work on something you want to for five or ten minutes. I think that's as important as anything you'll ever do.
Like I was saying, his talk is truly a must-listen.
Roberto Martinez on his diet choices
The Everton manager is one of the most fascinating to listen to when it comes to the little things he thinks make the difference. In an interview with the Daily Mail he gave us an insight into his diet.
Do you use your brain at night or not? Because you need the carbs if you want to think at night. I prefer to think at night.
In the morning it is more structured work. I operate more on caffeine. But in terms of going into greater detail, try it. Try carbs and try thinking at night and try it without carbs, and you’ll feel tired and you won’t see it. When you need to be mentally active you need carbs. Diet is very important.
Martinez on the importance of sleep
He is also a big believer in the importance of sleep. One of the things many people wouldn't expect to be something worth getting fined over.
There are certain things I won’t accept. A player must sleep for eight hours and if I can prove that he has not slept for eight hours he will get a fine.
Real men keep diaries
Conor McGregor, possibly the most swooned over Irish sports star of the last 18 months, keeps a journal every day. One more than one occasion McGregor has discussed how he writes down anything that went wrong in his training, how he can fix it and what he needs to do for it never to happen again.
Check out our interview below.
McGregor on drawing inspiration
In the recent RTÉ documentary that was an enthralling watch, we see McGregor often reading quotes from a book called 'The Key to Living the Law of Attraction.'
'Constant repetition carries conviction.' Some good shit isn't it? When I read quotes I take from them and just put my own thing to it.
Joe Schmidt exemplifies the importance of respect and social interaction
It's virtually impossible to live a happy and successful life without relying on others for help or comradery at the very least. Schmidt makes a habit of shaking hands with every person he meets in work, every day.
His ritual has also spread to the players and although it's a small gesture, it's strengthens team spirit and imagine what it must feel like as an underage player getting greeted by heroes every day?
John Wooden on the difference between winning and succeeding
Now deceased, Wooden is the greatest college basketball coach of all time, winning ten NCAA Championships in 12 years with UCLA during the 1960s and 70s. The English teacher gave a wonderful TedTalk before he passed away in 2010, where he gave his definition of success:
Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
Jonny Wilkinson shows practice makes perfect
The best kicker in world rugby didn't just become the best kicker by chance. Persistence persistence persistence.
Sometimes when I'm kicking I can get obsessive about seeing results. I'll tell myself: 'I need to hit five in a row from here'.
Jonny Wilkinson takes the stance before a place kick for the Lions
That all-familiar pose
Maybe I'll hit four in a row and just miss the fifth one. Instead of being satisfied with that, I won't allow myself to leave until I've hit five.
An hour and a half later - and having missed loads of appointments and left myself running completely late - I might do it!
That may sound obsessive, but I like to think that sort of thing gives me the extra one per cent that could get me through in really tough situations.
Wilkinson's trick to grounding yourself in a stressful situation
Ever wonder why Wilkinson cups his hands like he does? Rumour has it he imagines he's holding a little pool of water and refuses to move until that the pool's surface is settled, with not as much as one ripple.
While this might not be the exact story behind his pose it certainly follows the same concept of many free takers' routines. When you find your heart thumping and you become overcome with emotion, settle yourself by becoming more aware of your surroundings.
The importance of short-term goals
How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.
We all have great hopes and dreams for the future but what sports stars, perhaps more than anyone, understand is that to achieve a long term goal one must set short-term, attainable goals that will a) let them track their progress and b) keep them motivated.
A great story in the Harvard Business Review tells the story of British Olympic swimmer Adrian Moorhouse. Four years before the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Moorhouse set a target of swimming the 100 metre breaststroke in 62 seconds. How did he build towards this? By setting short-term goals in nutrition, mental toughness, strength training and the like.
Fast forward those four years and Moorhouse did indeed win the gold medal in the 100 metre breaststroke, in a time of 62.04 seconds.
Kieran McGeeney's All Ireland winning attitude
After retiring last year, former Kildare player Johnny Doyle told the Irish Times an anecdote about his ex-manager, Kieran McGeeney, which exemplifies the attitude of an All Ireland winner:
The thing with Kieran is, he always challenged you. No matter where you thought you were or where anyone else thought you were. If you were only new onto the team or you were there as an established player.
We were playing an As versus Bs on the Tuesday before we played Donegal in a league match and I was on the Bs. I wasn’t overly happy with it and I went to him and I said ‘what are we looking at here?’.
He said: ‘you’re not where I need you to be’. And I said ‘what do you mean? I’m training hard’. I was sort of getting a bit vexed and I said ‘look, if you think there’s six better forwards in Kildare than me, fair enough.’
And he said ‘see Johnny, that’s your problem. I need you to be one of the best in the country. Not the best in Kildare’. My level of expectation wasn’t where he saw it. And that sums up what it is about Kieran for me. There is always more and he always looks for more.
The power of mindfulness
From the minute I delved into the world of what mental 'tricks' – for want of a better word – sports stars rely on, the art of 'mindfulness' pops up time and time again.
It's a form of meditation that is becoming more and more popular; especially for those who want to keep calm in stressful situations. The likes of the aforementioned Conor McGregor is a well known example but I also enjoy this quote from Novak Djokovic on how it changed his game:
I used to freeze up whenever I made a mistake; I was sure that I wasn't in the same league as the Federers and the Andy Murrays.
Now, when I blow a serve or shank a backhand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt but I know how to handle them: I acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them slide by, focusing on the moment.
That mindfulness helps me process pain and emotions. It lets me focus on what's really important. It helps me turn down the volume in my brain. Imagine how handy that is for me in the middle of a grand slam championship match.
If want to learn a little more about mindfulness, this TedTalk is a real eye opener.
By picking out one quote I'm doing him and Jarlath Regan a disservice so my last piece of advice is that if you want to get inspired then listen to the Jerry Flannery episode of An Irishman Abroad to learn a thing or two about attitude and a positive mindset.
Why go out there and try and be small just go out there and give it fuckin everything!
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