Top athletes are lauded and admired for their ability to perform seemingly inhuman feats.
However, away from the spotlight, there’s a lot more than mere talent that makes it possible to do what they do.
Here are three important life lessons that elite athletes can teach us about excelling at playing the game of life.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho’s footballing career wonderfully exemplifies the difference that discipline can have on one’s life.
Even at the age of 35, Ronaldo is widely regarded as one of the best footballers in the world if not the best.
Carlos Tevez, One of Ronaldo’s former teammates once revealed in an interview about his extraordinary work ethic and discipline.
"If we trained at nine in the morning, he was already there when you arrived at eight.
If you arrived at seven-thirty, he would already be there.
I said, 'how can you trick this guy?'
So one day, I arrived at six in the morning to do it and he was already there. Half asleep but he was there."
Now Ronaldo may be one of the best players in the world, but even he has to put in the work, day in and day out and not take things for granted.
At the other end of the spectrum there was Ronaldinho.
He was truly one of a kind. His talent and ability was exceptional. He used to make football magical with his jaw-dropping skills and trickery on the pitch.
He burst into the public spotlight at the age of 22 after his fantastic performances for Brazil in their 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning campaign and joined F.C Barcelona a year later.
He was known for his flamboyant lifestyle and would often party late into the night and miss many of his team’s practice sessions.
His lack of discipline had prompted his former manager at Paris Saint-Germain to sell him to Barcelona. He’d said Ronaldinho was too focused on Parisian nightlife rather than football.
Yet in Barcelona he somehow managed to play the juggling act and carried on with his hedonistic lifestyle while giving exceptional performances on the pitch and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005.
But by 2007, at the age of 27 when most players enter their prime, his lifestyle and indiscipline finally caught up with him, and his fitness and performances started to decline rapidly.
He was sold to AC Milan a year later and unfortunately never reached his previous heights. And for the rest of his career, he became a shadow of the player he once was. His lack of discipline cost him, and he was unable to fulfil his potential.
Now, most of us may never have to exercise tremendous self-discipline in our lives like professional athletes. However, to live the best lives we can, it will undoubtedly require some amount of discipline. Whether it’s adopting positive habits like waking up early, exercising daily, eating healthy or meditating every day, all of these can go a long way to help us live better lives.
Keeping up these habits may not make a big difference in the short term, but it can end up making a world of difference to our lives in the long run.
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.” – Serena Williams
Cassius Clay was not the most talented boxer. His punches were not the strongest, nor was he remarkable in terms of height and weight. But he more than made up for those with his tremendous self-belief.
When he came on to the boxing scene, people saw him as a brash young boxer who would make grandiose statements and repeatedly claim, “I am the greatest”, when he had nothing to show for it.
However, years later, with his consistent results and the World Heavyweight Championship titles under his belt, his seemingly outlandish statement seemed to be accepted by the world as well. And even today, Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as the greatest boxer of all time.
But Ali, like most of us, wasn’t born with that kind of tremendous self-belief. It was something he consciously worked on as Ali says in one interview, “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
He unleashed the power of the Law of Attraction by using positive affirmations and applying visualisation techniques throughout his career.
“It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself......It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
As Buddha remarked more than two millenniums ago ”What you think you become.”
Whatever we keep telling ourselves over and over again in our mind, whether we like it or not, will sooner or later materialise into our reality.
However, the problem for many of us is that we may have limiting or negative tapes playing on repeat in our mind. Using positive affirmations can be incredibly powerful to help us override the negative tapes and develop self-belief, which can then work wonders in our lives.
Transform failure and setbacks into blessings
“I always believe if you're stuck in a hole and maybe things aren't going well, you will come out stronger. Everything in life is this way.” – Roger Federer
How could a person who could not even get selected for his high school basketball team ever manage to play in the NBA?
Now this man could have decided to be pragmatic and give up his dream of one day playing in the NBA.
Instead, he turned what was a hurtful and painful moment in his life into a blessing by approaching it with the right attitude and chose to persist and try even harder.
He not only managed to get himself into the NBA but also finished his career as the most decorated player in the history of the sport. The man is of course none other than Michael Jordan.
“I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
One thing that elite athletes realise is that failure teaches more than success ever will. And this is something one of the world’s best cricketer Virat Kohli acknowledges.
"I have learnt most in my life from failures and setbacks. The worst setbacks have not only motivated me but also improved me as a person, made me understand the importance of those times more than the success. It makes you sit down and think about what you need to do now, build a road-map for yourself.”
In life, you are going to face challenges, and no matter who you are or what you do, there is no escaping that. There will be times when you are going to be tested mentally and emotionally.
When life isn’t going well it’s easy to play the role of the victim, be stubborn and blame it on life being unfair.
But as the saying goes, it’s not about what happens to you but how you choose to respond to it that matters. Jordan did not let his failure to break into his high school basketball team define him. Instead, he used it as motivation to work harder.
As humans, we are drawn to comfort. As a result for many of us, sometimes the only time we become motivated to make positive changes in our life is when we are undergoing pain or facing difficult circumstances.
Adopting an elite athlete-like mentality by approaching the challenges we face in our lives with a positive attitude can help us learn and grow from them and come out of the other side stronger.
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