“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Talent begins with brief, powerful encounters that spark motivation by linking your identity to a high performing person or group. This is called ignition, and it consists of a tiny, world-shifting thought lighting up your unconscious mind: I could be them!
If you were to visit a dozen talent hotbeds, you would be struck by how much time the learners spend observing top players. When I say observing, I’m not talking about passively watching. I’m talking about staring – the kind of fresh, unblinking, intensely absorbed gazes you see in hungry cats or newborn babies.
We each live with a “windshield” of people in front of us; one of the keys to igniting your motivation is to fill your windshield with vivid images of your future self, and stare at them every day. Studies show that even a brief connection with a role model can vastly increase unconscious motivation. For example, being told that you share a birthday with a mathematician can improve the amount of effort you’re willing to put into difficult math tasks by 62%. (Why do I know this? My father was a mathematical einstein!)
Many talented areas are fueled by the windshield phenomenon. In 2011, there were very few Washington DC Metropolitan area players on the US Soccer’s Women’s National Soccer teams (WNT’s). Today there are more than 20, on various US National Team pools and teams from U14 through U23. What happened? One player inspired a country and most definitely a local community (Ali Krieger, with a decisive penalty-kick versus Brazil in the Women’s World Cup in the Summer of 2011) and through her, hundreds of young girls were ignited by a new vision of their future selves. As the American soccer player Ali put it, while watching her childhood idol Mia Hamm; “You say to yourself, If she can do it, why can’t I?”
Think of your windshield as an energy source for your brain. Use pictures (the walls of many talent hotbeds are cluttered with photos and posters of their stars) or better, video. One idea: Bookmark a few YouTube videos, and watch them before you practice, or at night before you go to bed.
Happy New Year 2013, may your Windshield be full of images of your future!