Life happens, but can you keep your eye on the prize?

 “I’ve seen several generations of players and he’s the one who’s the most mentally strong,” said Guy Forget, the French Davis Cup captain about Spain’s Rafael Nadal’s winning performance at the French Open on June 6th 2010.

What about his physical strength? His ability to get the job done?

Mr. Forget knows, as do we, that Rafael Nadal is a world-class tennis player. We know that he can “get the job done.” In this case it means physically and strategically hit the ball. We also know – but often forget – the significance of the mental component. The ability to clearly identify, focus and achieve the goals.

But the tournament in 2010 was a dramatic improvement over 2009, where he was definitely not focused. In 2009, his performance was hindered both physically – persistent knee problems – and emotionally – his parents announced their intention to divorce. He was unable to focus on the job at hand.

Flash forward one year later, and he is arguably at the top of his game. Nadal beat Sweden’s Robin Soderling quickly and soundly: 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

What changed? Nadal has addressed his knee problems with physiotherapy, rest, and hard work. He also came to terms with his parents’ divorce, at least to the point where it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind.

Stunning success at work was the result.

How does this affect you?

How often as physical or emotional pain prevented you from doing your job efficiently and effectively? Perhaps an injury, a persistent cough, trouble breathing, a romantic break up, a death or pain of a friend of family member?

We collectively measure “success” as the ability to get the job done, but sometimes that ability to focus on the task is hindered by real life.

Time and treatment are the best ways to deal with pain. Perhaps talking to someone, perhaps distracting you from thoughts, perhaps focusing on other areas might help. If you can, set aside some time of the day – thereby compartmentalizing the thoughts – which can free your brain and energy levels to work on different aspects of your life; aspects such as setting and achieving goals.

Without knowing Nadal, he probably did set at least one goal. Such as, “I’m going to win the 2010 French Open.”

Four steps to successful goal setting:

1.       Be specific – what is it that you want to achieve?

–       “I’m going to win the 2010 French Open.”

2.       Make the goal measureable – how will you know when you complete it?

–       “I’ll have a trophy in my hands.”

3.       Make the goal realistic – do you have the tools and ability to get it done? And if not, can you find the tools?

–       “I have to address my knee injuries and family changes, but yes, I can beat the other competitors.”

4.       Be sure to include a Time Line – so you can match your expectations and actions to both the goal and to the timeline.

–       “June 2010 is when the French Open will be held.”

The key is to make the goal specific and measurable. Once a timeline is in place, then you can create a work-back schedule (also identify smaller goals and a checklist) and cross them off the list as you work towards reaching the bigger one. This will provide mini-successes as you move towards the bigger goal.

Think of the next 3 months.

What would you like to achieve by the end of the fiscal quarter?

What would you like to achieve by the end of the year?

Life happens, and you will be thrown some curve balls. Try to keep your eye on the prize and take it one step at a time.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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