You may at some point have read a book or gone to a seminar that promoted positive thinking as a cure-all to bring happiness, joy and fulfilment into your life. These seminars have merit and I believe anyone can benefit from building positive expectation as a habitual way of thinking; however, this is only half the story. Positive thinking without concerted intelligent action can lead to frustration and disillusionment. Positive thoughts are powerful but can undermine the best-laid plans.
I live near the coast. It is a truly beautiful area and somewhere I am glad to call home. However, in my part of the world, it rains, frequently, and in different ways. Heavy rain, light rain, drizzle, sweeping-in-from-the-side rain, spitting rain and so on. Now, I could repeat incantations that focus on the fact that it will not rain. I can repeatedly visualise that every day will be warm and sunny and that I will enjoy nothing but pleasant weather. This will not change the meteorological fact that it rains around one hundred and sixty days a year here. If I have any sense, I know I had better wear a jacket, carry an umbrella and enjoy my day.
In life, it is the same; we do not have to throw our intelligence out of the window. We can retain a positive expectation but still be ready to handle the showers if they come. Our thinking will dictate what and who we become, so I am all for keeping that positive mindset, without losing sight of the fact that I share the world with billions of others, who may be thinking or desiring something else. Blinkered thinking which says things will always turn out exactly as we want them to or that we will win the prize and everyone else will lose is not only limiting, but self-defeating. This attitude can still be found in individuals, organisations and companies. I admire the sheer force of desire to make something happen, but if two people or companies are chasing the same thing, who wins? If there can only be one number one, whose positive thinking is more powerful? Personal Best gives you an intelligent way of enjoying fast progress, by employing the tools used by everyone who has achieved notable success. Without pushing aside your native intelligence, it allows you to keep running towards all the things you want in life and to do so with balance and integrity.
Richard Thompson realised that he was a quick runner when he was about eight years old. He found himself able to beat kids much older than him as they raced across the school yard in his home town of Cascade in Trinidad and Tobago. He used this speed to great effect on the football field, becoming an accomplished player with a turn of pace that left defenders in his wake. As he got older, Richard decided to concentrate on track and field rather than football. He won a number of races during his college years and was disappointed not to qualify for the Trinidad and Tobago national team during the 2005 Central American Games in Nassau. However, by working with an experienced coach and dedicating himself to his training, he eventually improved his 100 metre time from 10.47 seconds in 2005 to 10.09 in 2007. His performances were good enough for selection into the team that travelled to the World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan that summer. Richard qualified from his first heat, but did not manage to get past the second round where he finished last of the eight runners chasing the qualifying places for the final. His mood was upbeat though; he was getting faster and was still only twenty-two. At his age he still had time to mature and get stronger. In fact many sprinters still perform superbly well in their thirties.
Richard’s main goal was to qualify for the team that would travel to the Olympic Games a year later in Beijing. After a good winter season, including a new personal best over 60 metres at an indoor event, his 2008 place on the Olympic team was confirmed and he travelled to participate in the 100 metres, where he would be pitted against the best in the world. After the previous year’s effort, Richard was determined to make the final eight, although this was a difficult task, given the calibre of the athletes he would be up against. But he was running well and his confidence was high; he believed himself capable of making the Olympic final, which would be an achievement beyond that which many commentators expected. Richard won his first heat and qualified for the quarter finals. He knew that he would have to run to the top of his ability now as he was lined up against other world class sprinters who had come through their heats, including Tyson Gay, the American champion. Richard breezed through in an astonishing 9.99 seconds. He was delighted. Rarely do athletes peak at exactly the right time, but he had. He was running strongly and felt he might have a little more in him. He was in the semi-finals, one race away from his goal and a place in the final of the Olympic Games.
When the gun went in his semi-final heat, Richard got out of the blocks beautifully, quickly hit his stride and pushed through halfway strongly. He powered through the last fifty metres to finish second behind renowned Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell in a new personal best time of 9.93 seconds. Incredibly he had done it; by pulling out the performance of his life he had not only qualified for the Olympic final but had also achieved a time that even he had doubted he was capable of. No one can ask more of themselves than to push further than they have ever done previously. Not everyone can be top of the class or become President, or win the gold medal, but by taking massive, intelligent action we are all capable of achieving things that might seem beyond our current abilities.
The Olympic final of 2008 was much anticipated and as it turned out it was an historic event. The world’s greatest sprinter Usain Bolt powered down the track in a breathtaking 9.69 seconds. Even by the high standards Bolt had set himself this seemed almost superhuman. The distance between him and the rest of the field was large and still growing as he started celebrating his victory ten metres before the finish line. It was incredible to witness an athlete smashing the world record in such a seemingly effortless style. What about Richard? Well, he scored yet another massive personal best, flying down the track in 9.89 seconds. He not only achieved another PB, his second in as many days, but he also secured the silver medal and became a national hero in his homeland.
Should Richard celebrate his incredible achievement or should he be disappointed that he finished second? Should he look at his progress and the huge accomplishment of running faster than he had ever done in his life, or be down because he had finished behind the fastest man on the planet? This is what Richard said in an interview immediately after the race. “Words cannot describe how I feel right now. This is just a dream come true for me. I have to tip my hat to Usain Bolt; he’s a great competitor, a phenomenal athlete, and there was no way anyone was going to beat him with a run like that. But it just feels good to come here, run in the Olympic Games, my first Olympic Games, win a silver medal and run a personal best at the same time. I couldn’t ask for anything more, thank God.”