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Persistence pays

This week [Aug 2012] I am – as we all are – completely inspired by the Olympic athletes thrilling us all with their medal-winning performances.

We sit and watch these superstars perform, and we see their moments of glory – 10 seconds of sprint, 12 seconds over hurdles, a long or high jump, a massive throw or several fast laps of the track, but in these moments of glory too few of us truly understand and appreciate the immense effort that it has taken to get to this brief moment when all the magic happens.

Winning Gold

When Mo Farah won 10,000 meter gold the other night, it wasn’t really those 27 minutes on the track in London that won that gold medal, it was the 120 miles per week of training he has been doing for the last few years that gave him the speed and stamina in his legs and lungs that ENABLED him to deliver 27 minutes of glory when it really mattered.

So many of these athletes have prepared for years to perform at these games, years, even decades, through injuries, through time spent away from their loved ones, through gruelling training schedules, through missing out on the kind of social life that most ‘normal’ people enjoy, and through strict attention to sleep, rest and diet.

The secret to greatness

This is what sets these people apart. If you were wondering what is ‘the secret’ to greatness, this is it – stamina, discipline, persistence. These people achieve greatness because they stick to it, year in, year out, at great personal sacrifice – because they KNOW WHAT THEY WANT, and they place that desire, that goal, that dream, above all else. And this is where that same attitude can translate into all areas of all our lives.

I believe that most people could achieve so many more of their goals if they made this kind of serious commitment. But these days, too many people have no stamina, no staying power, no determination and no persistence. Too many people ‘want it all’ in an instant but they are not prepared to put in the years and make the sacrifices that are required to achieve great things.

In all areas of life, from sports, to education, to careers, to finances, to relationships, to weight loss and fitness, people need to get off the sofa, stop staring at the TV and make a whole lot more effort to get the things they want. I hear the same complaints and excuses all the time:

“I’ve tried every diet but none of them work.”

Wrong – it’s YOU that didn’t work, you didn’t work hard enough. If you eat healthily and exercise regularly, you will lose weight and get fitter and healthier. But it takes more than a month, and that’s where it all goes wrong for most people.

“I tried everything to get that job.”

Wrong – not everything, if you were the perfect candidate, you’d have the job, no company turns away amazing candidates. Accept that you are not perfect, find and fix your faults or failings, and keep trying.

You get the message.

Time and hard work and commitment

It seems to me that too many people want the glory, but are not prepared to put in the effort. In all areas of life – whether chasing a girl (or boy!), chasing a dream job, chasing a weight loss goal, chasing a new Personal Best or chasing an Olympic Gold medal, the simple truth is that greatness does not come easily, and competition is stiff, and the glory ONLY goes to those who are prepared to go the extra mile and really fight for what they want.

Goals and dreams do not happen overnight, they take years, often a decade or more. Only those who can stay the course will attain those goals and live all their dreams.

I wanted to write about persistence, about staying power, about sticking at things and not being some flaky 5-minute-wonder, and as I sat down to write this, Sir Chris Hoy was being interviewed on the BBC talking about his amazing double-gold success in these games. He was asked about the success of the entire Team GB cycling team, and while noting that everyone has worked hard and the coaching, nutrition, technology and training are top-notch, he said that long-term investment in the sport had been crucial, and he said that the success of Team GB in the cycling at this Games “didn’t happen overnight, it’s been going on since 1997, what you see now is the result of 15 years of hard work”.

Well said Sir Chris – when I say it takes years of dedication to achieve all our goals and dreams, well, my opinion might not count for much, but when the all-time greatest British Olympian ever says it, with 6 Olympic Gold medals to his name, then maybe people will listen.

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