Any undertaking, whether large or small, can be narrowed in scope to one framing question: Why? What is the purpose of anything we do? Humans are unique in the animal kingdom in that we can cover the essentials—feeding, sleep, and reproducing—and still be faced with an abundance of free time. Without wasting time basking in the glory of the human situation, let’s just leave the picture painted as one of ease in comparison to our lesser evolved comrades. Beyond feeding, sleeping, and reproducing, we have the luxury of leftover time that we get to fill with pursuits of our own choosing. These are the behaviors that we frame in the context of “Why?” Why do we pursue the vocation that we do? Why do we undertake the hobbies that we do? Why do we enjoy the entertainment that we do? Why do we have the obsessions that we do?
I frequently hear the questions, “Why do you lift weights?” and “Why do you eat that way?” and, my favorite, “When will it ever be enough?” These questions imply that there is such a thing as too big or too strong, so my favorite response is, “If you have to ask, you will never understand.” I like this answer because it fits the prerequisites of the Elite mentality. However, on its own, it’s not enough. It needs direction. It needs purpose. Every trainer must develop his own specific understanding of his “why” to motivate his training choices. It’s where true strength comes from.
I understand why I train, and compete, and live my life by the mantra that I do. It is my purpose. It is my choice. It is my exercising of my free will that my Creator has bestowed upon me. It is my gratitude for my opportunities. It is my penance for my faults. It is my legacy to those for whom I pave the way and my respect for those who came before me. Is my purpose really that broad in scope? Hell yeah. I am a gift, as are all who live. I have no explanation for how creation, in the big sense, happened, but I do know that it happened. Something greater than ourselves happened. And I doubt that it happened with the intention of revealing how Average everything could turn out.
Everything I do is an homage to the greats. I’m providing the ingredients for the great tales of performance that the next generations will tell. Every little contribution counts. I have no delusions of matching the accomplishments of the greats who came before me, greats like Schwarzenegger or, in another arena, Richard Branson. It would take me five lifetimes to match their achievements, if I ever could, but that does not give me an excuse not to strive for greatness every day.
- Step One: Define your purpose. Discover your unique answers. Who are you? What do you stand for? What are you here to accomplish?
- Step Two: Focus your actions. Why are you doing this? Are you helping or hurting? Did you get better or worse today?
- Step Three: Leave a legacy. How will you be remembered? If your answers to Step One and Step Two are strong enough, Step Three handles itself.
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“Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”—Samuel Johnson