March 10, 2017

The Unique Quality of People Who Embrace Struggle

I loved listening to him. Zig Ziglar offered up powerful encouragement dressed up in a charming southern accent. He was a master of motivation. Zig loved to say, “You don’t pay the price, you enjoy the benefits.”

Do you like to struggle? You might be thinking, “Does anyone like to struggle?” Surprisingly the answer is a resounding “Yes,” because the greatest achievements, discoveries and breakthroughs in history were uncovered in the face of struggle.

There is something unique about people who embrace the struggle. They possess a peaceful and seemingly joyful calm that silences their critics and blinds them to distractions. Great champions victors and achievers in service, sport and industry all possess it.

Strange to think the ability to embrace struggle weaves the lives of Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Rick Warren, Bill Gates and countless other breakthrough thinkers and achievers together.

Winston Churchill once said, “It’s not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is required.”

Doing what is required is a mindset. When we shift our perspective from paying a price to focusing on a compelling vision it becomes an infinite well of inspiration, motivation and encouragement. It is a mindset of inner resourcefulness—a mental toughness that won’t let your mind drift to the deficiencies of the moment.

The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is recognized as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century. Her path to was paved with struggle. While competing in the heptathlon at the AAU Junior Olympics she was on the verge of a breakthrough victory with one event to go.

Jackie had exhausted herself over the course of the first six events and now faced an event she hated—the 800-meter. The 800-meter would feature an expert distance runner whose times she had never equaled. This race was different. Jackie did not focus on how she was feeling or her competitor. She focused on her razor-sharp vision of being a champion.

Jackie said, “I felt a kind of high. I’d proven that I could win if I wanted it badly enough...That win showed me that I could not only compete with the best athletes in the country, I could will myself to win.”

Where the Struggle is Won

The struggle is won by winning the battle for your thoughts. It’s a battle that rages every day in the invisible, intangible realm of your mind.

I was playing golf with a future NFL quarterback whose talent has teams buzzing about his potential. His athletic giftedness was obvious watching him swing the club. As you would expect he demonstrated great balance, strength and eye-hand coordination. Golf, however, has a way of exposing the struggle like few sports can.

After another wayward shot, he verbally called himself out. I asked him, “If a coach called you the things you are calling yourself how would you respond?” Before he could respond I added, “Can you even imagine a coach talking to you like that?”

I had his full attention. He had no idea what he was saying to himself—most of us don’t.

Willing Yourself to Win

Struggle is inevitable and pours fuel on the battle for your thoughts. Everything rises and falls with your thoughts. You are heading wherever your thoughts lead you. In order to win the battle, you must develop an awareness of when your self-talk casts a cloud over your vision.

When your self-talk drifts to thoughts of things you can’t control or influence you are losing the battle.

Willing yourself to win grows from directing and focusing your self-talk towards taking positive action and encouraging your best effort. When self-talk is positive, vision centric and effort reinforcing it fosters mental toughness that allows you to maintain confidence and effectiveness in the face of challenges and setbacks.

The question is not whether you are going to struggle or not—you will. Your response to struggling and the results you achieve will reflect the clarity of your vision and the quality of your thinking and self-talk.

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