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Roger Federer and Sustaining Success

When Roger Federer was asked about the difference between achieving success and sustaining it, Federer said that people told him it would get harder once he achieved success, “that everyone would be gunning for him”. But Federer found it easier. When he had done it once, he knew he could do it again.

This is why Federer will forever be one of the greatest of all time. Not only did he ensure he was peak physically trained, he ensured he was just peak mentally trained. He did the work so that he was unflappable under pressure. When the pressure came, he fell back onto his mental training. He trusted himself to perform because he trusted the work.

Achieving success and maintaining success are two very different skill sets (the same can be said for getting wealthy and staying wealthy).

When we think about our dreams, we must think about who we need to be to maintain those dreams - to not only achieve those dreams but hold the dreams once we achieve them.

Maintaining success requires nervous system capacity - the ability to hold stress and pressure without getting derailed, overreacting, or shutting down.

We often see the opposite of Federer in high visibility careers, like sports and acting. Someone with incredible raw talent rises through the ranks and has immediate success. But they aren’t prepared for the pressure that comes with success, their nervous systems can’t handle it, and they self-destruct in very public ways.

This isn’t unique to just those who are in the public eye. We all experience a myriad of pressures every day, and the pressure only builds as we achieve success, get that promotion, start a family, start a company, hire people, and on and on.

While we may not spectacularly implode, we often block our success in small ways. This can look like procrastinating on that big thing we need to do or having an extra drink even though we know we’ll feel tired in the morning. For some of us, these little things can turn into big problems (like an extra drink leading to alcoholism), but for most of us, these little things hold us back from truly being great.

To get great and stay great, we do the body-brain work to build our nervous system capacity. We do the mindfulness practices and body scans and yoga. We eat well, get enough sleep, and drink water. We take pauses throughout our day so we can remember to breathe. When we finish a task, instead of immediately picking up our phone, we pause and breath. We get sunlight and fresh air and feel our feet on the ground. We come back to the work over and over again.

Then, when success comes, the work is already done. We don’t have to think about taking a deep breath and pausing, we already instinctively do. We have freedom to keep achieving when the pressure can’t break us.

The body leads the mind.

Cheers to better living -


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