Matt Hall - as World Champion, am I now the best I can be?
Now that I am a World Champion, the same is true; I can always improve, and life would be very boring if you weren’t challenging yourself to get better, faster, fitter, healthier, or just calmer.
One thing I noticed for the few weeks after becoming World Champion was that I was still the same person inside. I had achieved a long duration dream, though I was already wondering about what the next dream was.
I was hunting for the next challenge.
And when people asked me how it felt to be a World Champion, the answer was pretty simple. I feel exactly as I did, just will a little less stress and anxiety. But I did notice that I was treated a little differently. It appeared my jokes were funnier, I was more popular, almost everyone was happy for me, but I was still the same person.
It took me a bit to figure out what was going on. But when I realised, it made perfect sense. I realised that I have been racing with a belief in myself that I could be a World Champion, a confidence if you will, though I was no longer hanging my self-belief or reputation on it.
I had accepted that being so close a few times showed me, intrinsically, that I had what it takes to be a World Champion. I could consider myself the best in the world at my sport on the odd occasions, and if the World Champion trophy did not come my way in the end, while disappointed, I was content with how I had played the game and the results I had achieved. I was ultimately racing for intrinsic purposes; that is, not doing it for the fame and fortune, but to push myself to be the best I could be.
On the flip side, you had all the people around me, who had followed my journey, and as it turns out, there were a lot of people. They were invested with me, from family members to team members, from fans to friends. They all wanted it both for me, but also for themselves. Me becoming World Champion was a reward for them too. It was a justification of all the time, nerves, work and late nights that comes from following an international motor sport.
Just like any sport you’re passionate about, when the team wins, it feels great, when the team loses, you feel flat. I was able to give all those people that great feeling, and they wanted to share that feeling with me.
It also made me realise that if I had been motivated by this, I probably would not have been able to perform to my best. I would have felt the weight of expectation upon my shoulders. I would have lost focus on the task at hand, worrying about the ‘what ifs’…’what if I am knocked out in the first round and all those people who have spent money to come and watch me have then been let down’ or ’What if I come second again, and I have let down the fans’.
Being intrinsically motivated stopped this line of thinking, allowed me to be comfortable with what I have achieved and just focus on being the best I can be regardless of actual results, then have a feeling of satisfaction and relief rather than surprise and excitement when achieving the dream.
Maybe all that sounds a bit flat and bland, though it seems it is true for a number of high profile athletes I have talked to since winning.
It seems most people who have achieved the top of their profession, end up doing it without too much emotion at the end game. Sure, there are those who rise quickly to the top and the rise is a bit of a surprise to them and their supporters, which leads to a lot of shouting and screaming.
But if you watch those that have methodically worked their way over the years, there will be a shout of raw emotion which is satisfaction, and then a very calm wave to the crowd with a smile. And most likely, all they want to do is go to bed and have a sleep.
So where is all this leading? What it means to me, is to be your best at something. You have to do it with passion, and your own motivation. Doing something because you have to, or because you are expected to, or to please someone else, is almost always going to lead to a sub-par performance.
In areas where there is risk of injury or incident, that may lead to a higher level of risk as either complacency, or lack of attention, creeps in. You will also suffer more stress, which leads to less enjoyment, which leads to early retirement, quitting, throwing in the towel.
To be really good, find a way to make it all about you. Be content with who you are and enjoy the challenge of making that better. If you believe in yourself that you’re already pretty good, it will only make you feel better by improving. If you don’t believe in yourself, every time you go out to improve you will be concerned that if you don’t improve, you are obviously no good (in your own mind), and a nasty spiral commences.
This is the basis of not only good sports psychology but good psychology for success in any sphere of life.
Positive self talk, believe in yourself, and if you have a bad day, be strong enough to say you were already pretty good, and just because you did not get better today, means you are still overall pretty good. It makes coming back tomorrow easier, by giving yourself a pat on the back, rather than chastising and abusing.
Learning and improving with a positive attitude, will always reap rewards and results.
Chase your Dreams!
Read more about Matt Hall and the QBE Airmanship Program.