For anyone who’s interested in athletics, you may recently have been enjoying the Athletics World Championships held at the spectacular Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing. A host of athletes, competing for the top honours in their field, their sights on the gold medal.
But what does it really take to claim the gold medal? These athletes are, after all, world-class, so doesn’t that make it ‘easy’ for them? Well, maybe, if your name is Usain Bolt, but we’re not all built for running 100 metres in just 9.58 seconds!
It’s somewhat fitting, I think though that 212 degrees, being the boiling point of water is a great analogy for reaching the peak; for achieving success… for reaching our own personal ‘boiling point’.
Because, how often do we set out on the road to reach our goals only to fall short? Somehow we go off the boil at some point during the journey. We lose interest or momentum and it can be nigh on impossible to re-kindle our enthusiasm and to get going again.
“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
— Roger Bannister
By now, we all know that persistence is a key element in achieving anything of importance or significance in our lives. This is true whether the goal is important and/or significant to you personally or to those around you that you would like to touch in a positive way.
However, have we really considered what persistence means in the face of working towards our goal?
Consider the dictionary definition of persistence:
Continuing firmly or obstinately in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
I love the use of the word ‘obstinately’ in this definition particularly when it relates to the pursuit of our goals. However, I’m less enamored by the idea that some of us will obstinately cling to a particular point of view, even when all evidence appears contrary!
But, maybe this is the point.
Even when an action or opinion appears alien, irrelevant or even completely foolish to others, the person continues anyway, holding true to their belief that they can indeed reach their personal 212.
Being able to hold on to our plans, dreams and goals and keep going when there is not only no support from others but actual opposition, will definitely single a person out as being persistent, and, in the eyes of his opposers, obstinate.
Going the Extra Mile
But pursuing our dreams isn’t only about being persistent, it’s also about doing that little bit extra that other people are not prepared to do. In the world of athletics for example, winning the gold can often be a split-second difference to coming in second, and whilst I certainly would not want to reduce the silver medal to anything short of awesome, it’s highly unlikely that those running the race are doing so in order to achieve silver. No, they are there for the gold.
I guess then it’s about refusing to accept anything other than being world-class, of being able to sit at the winners’ top table, rather than looking upon that coveted top table from somewhere else in the room.
But it’s worth remembering that the difference between success and failure, in this context at least, is usually minimal. I deliberately sub-titled this post ‘Reaching Your Boiling Point’ to emphasise this idea.
If we decide to make a cuppa, we’ll put the kettle on to boil. This can take anything up to a few minutes, but essentially, right up until 1 degree before reaching boiling point, everything else is just ‘hot’ water. So in other words, the difference between ‘hot’ water and boiling water is just one degree.
Similarly, it’s usually the case that the difference between winning a race and coming second is minimal, often less than a second! But it’s the winners we tend to remember and celebrate, rather than those who came second and third, but have also worked super-hard to reach that spot.
This then is the ‘extra mile’, but the reality is that’s it’s not a mile, or even half a mile, but something much, much smaller. Indeed, the further you go towards improving your performance, the more people who slip behind you until eventually you are the top performer in your chosen field.
The idea that being the ‘winner’ is often just a small effort above the next in line should come as an encouragement to those of us striving to make a difference in our lives.
So, getting back to the 100m world record holder, Usain Bolt. Clearly Mr Bolt has the capacity for keeping at his personal 212, at least for the time being. But consider this: the previous world record holder, Asafa Powell, who ran the 100m in 9.74 seconds, was merely 0.16 seconds slower!
That’s the difference!
This minute difference in effort (by whatever means that’s measured) has resulted in a new world record and of course a gold medal. This tiny extra effort has made all the difference.
Strive For Your Personal 212
Reaching our personal boiling point, our 212, will allow us to achieve the success that we aspire to. From shedding those last few pounds or kilos, to adding muscle and definition to our bodies; from finishing that report ahead of deadline to giving an awesome presentation; from having a great first date to meeting the love of our lives; it all requires effort. So why waste yourself on luke warm? Why not go all out and reach your personal 212? You’ll be glad you did!