All in.

“Success in any facet of life is only achieved by total commitment. We are either in or we are out. No half-measures.”

I stood back and stared at the bench press. My bar was loaded with 505 lbs of iron. As I recall, it was 5 large plates on each side of my bar plus a little. Two spotters lingered nearby, waiting for my lift.  My strength coach whispered in my ear, “you got this.” I cleanly delivered fifteen reps at 255 lbs only minutes before to warm up my muscles.  Two reps at 505 lbs would be the payoff from months of pain and suffering as I pushed through my old limits.  

A friend who would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame had called, offering me a legit opportunity to make an NFL roster.  But I had to convert from being a quarterback to a tight end. I needed more bulk to contend with defensive ends and linebackers at 250+ lbs.  From my 230 “playing weight” at quarterback, I added 35 lbs of muscle over five months.  Pushing my bench press to 505 was a goal I created to keep myself mentally in the weight room.

Benching 505, even at my muscled-up 265, remained a daunting task. Once the bar came off the rack, it would bend slightly under the yoke of the massive load. Even with two spotters, I would be fully committed or “all in” on my lift.  I have always functioned well with goals and “all-in” commitments. Today would be no different.

I put my mind in that place I go where failure ceases to exist. I visualized the lift in my head. Repetition is the mother of skill.  I had over a decade in weight rooms. News of my herculean lift brought onlookers. A dozen or so gathered to watch as I laid down on the bench. My focus was singular and intense. The bar came off the rack clean. The weight was enormous, but I pushed through. One rep. Then another without the assistance of my spotters whose hands never touched the bar until I re-racked the weight.

I jumped up high fiving my strength coach and lifting partner. I had done it. 500 pounds!

I have led an extraordinary life. Dined with Presidents and Prime Ministers, trained with NFL greats, and hung out with gym rats. For every success I enjoyed, I  failed twice as many times. I didn’t make it to the NFL. My friend signed with another team before Spring training, and I chose not to follow him. My dream of playing in the NFL as a young boy was centered on being a quarterback. I never truly bought into my conversation to tight end. I was never all in.  

In my recent “Compelling” post, I offered this nugget of wisdom. “Without a strong vision for the future pulling us forward, we will always return to our past.”

I can’t half-ass my future. And neither can you. We need a compelling vision or goal for tomorrow to get us committed to the action required to fire up our will. And for the perseverance necessary to push through life’s challenges and obstacles.

As I began my 5 am run this morning, the temperature was 48 degrees with rain. Not ideal conditions, but after 2,816 straight days of running, I laughed off the cool and wet. Who cares what the conditions are? I am running. That’s what I have done every morning for over seven years.  My goal is to run every day for the rest of my life.

Check out Figure 4 below, covering 35 years of empirical research on goal setting from the paper “Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-Year Odyssey” (Locke & Latham 2002)

Why does a vision or goals matter so much? Psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham have written much about goals. They emphasized the strong links between goals and motivation. According to Locke and Latham (L&L), goals drive action in at least four ways:

  1. Goals sharpen our focus on what’s important to us. Countless distractions compete for our energy and attention. These distractions can and do crowd out what we value most. A clear goal stands out from nagging distractions.  
  2. Goals energize our efforts. When we know what we’re working or aiming for, we work harder, especially if we see it in our mind’s eye.
  3. Goals lead to more remarkable persistence. When we’ve decided what we want, we don’t quit.
  4. Goals compel us to find ways of meeting them. With compelling goals or a vision, we quickly master life’s imperfections.

The challenge starts with establishing goals for change. I am a big fan of vision boards to keep your focus. Goal setting is sacred work because it determines what or who is worth fighting for.  

Until next time. Travel safe.

Published by Robert Q Watson

During my first six decades on this earth, I lived life at great heights often on the razor’s edge. Consequently, I have enjoyed incredible successes and endured mind-numbing failures. Truthfully, I have had a hell of a view.

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