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The power of a mission

Last updated on 10.07.2020

The benefits of outdoor walks

There are a series of small parks along the Hudson River in Manhattan running up the entire length of the island. For an island filled with concrete, pavement”, and skyscrapers, it’s a needed escape from the hum and noise of city life.

Anytime an athlete is coming through town to play against any one of the ten pro sports teams in the area or a business leader I work with is coming to New York for meetings, it’s a convenient chance to connect face-to-face. I’ll almost always take them for a walk along the Hudson. We walk because, in my experience”, humans are more prone to open up when they’re moving. Plus the fresh air and exercise never hurt.

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On this one occasion, a client connected me with a teammate in his second year in the NHL. After years of always being a go-to guy, Matt was struggling.

Small dialogue with…

He’d gone from always being a star to sinking to the bottom of the mediocre middle on his NHL team. We’d walked about twenty blocks along the water talking about his future and decided to take a break on a bench at the 26th Street pier.

As we sat down, I leaned forward and asked him, “You know how Batman is fighting for ‘justice’? I’m curious, what are you fighting for?”

“What do you mean?” he replied.

His opinion

“Well, for the last twenty minutes it’s been like pulling the teeth from a lion trying to get you to tell me what you truly want from your career. And you just got done telling me you feel like you’re letting your dreams slip away because you’re getting so caught up in your head. So, personally, that would piss me off.

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The idea that everything I’ve busted my ass to do to get here is getting tangled up in a web of bullshit, those thoughts in my head would piss me off. So, why are you going to start showing up differently? What are you fighting for?

Batman fought for justice after witnessing his parents die at the hands of criminals. We all have something we can fight for: justice, honor, fairness, our family, our community, our religion, our name, even our creative talents. So”, what about you?”

He sat on the bench leaning forward with his elbows resting on his huge hockey thighs, staring at the passing ferries, and after a long pause said, “Self-respect.”

“Why self—” But before I could finish my question he continued. “To show that someone from my Podunk town in Ohio made it. And bring the Stanley Cup back to our crappy little community hockey rink.”

“Meh, sounds cliché. I’ve heard it before”,” I shot back at him.

“Fuck you.” He quickly responded and was super annoyed. “Why would you say that!? I thought you were supposed to help, not put me down.”

“Matt, that feeling welling up right now—what is it?”


“Good. Don’t forget it. Because here’s what I know: You carry that with you every freaking time you don’t play your guts out on the ice. And you direct that ‘pissed-offness’ at yourself when you don’t show up. My job isn’t to be your best friend. My job is to help you perform, and sometimes that means challenging you.”

You’ve just admitted what you want. Good. Now, do you feel a strong emotional pull toward what you want? Do you feel so motivated to go on this quest that nothing will stop you, nothing will get in your way? Does it have meaning?

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If your answer is no, we have a problem.

Holocaust survivor and celebrated psychiatrist Viktor Frankl

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

When you look at the superheroes in comic books, the great characters in movies and literature, they all seem to be fighting for something bigger than themselves. And even the ones that start out doing good deeds for selfish reasons end up finding deeper meaning in their labors. It gives the effort, struggle, and challenge a higher purpose.

More and more research is piling up that shows the obsession with

“happiness” is causing people to feel empty.

Study of the journal “Positive Psychology”

In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology in 2013, Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that people who pursued activities only for personal pleasure lacked a sense of meaning in their lives. Another study, conducted by Steven Cole of the UCLA.

School of Medicine and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, revealed that people who found deeper meaning in their lives had stronger immune systems than those who had a more self-centered approach to life.

Useful Factors to Achieve a Goal

This suggests that if you want to chase your goals, finding deeper meaning in your efforts will make you stronger, literally.

You need to feel pulled as if you’re on a conveyor belt that goes only one way. There’s nothing you can do to stop yourself from being drawn into your Extraordinary World. If you lack the strong emotional resonance, or you’re indifferent toward your Extraordinary World, then . . . why are you about to go on this journey? Why build an Alter Ego for a world that you kind of, sort of”, maybe want to experience?

“The emotions are mechanisms that set the brain’s highest-level goals. Once triggered by an event, an emotion triggers the cascade of sub-goals and sub-subgoals that we call thinking and acting”.

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Explains Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists.

Emotion and action as a single organism

In other words, our emotions drive our actions. It’s almost impossible for you to take action toward something you’re indifferent to.

Beyond just taking action, the emotional resonance you feel toward what you want, toward why you’re creating this Alter Ego, is also your motivation. The word motivation comes from the Latin word motivus, which means “moving cause.”

As a mental strength coach, there’s one thing I can’t coach people on. That’s motivation. I won’t touch it. It’s one of the few things that no one can coach you on or create for you. It’s the X-factor. I can’t make an athlete get up at 4 a.m. to run drills or wind sprints. I can’t make an entrepreneur want to start and grow a business or to stick with it when they hit the rough patches. I can’t make someone want their goal bad enough that they’re driven to overcome any and every obstacle, no matter how tough or how high the cost.

How We Decide

In his bestselling book, How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer makes the case that rationality depends on emotion. Feeling, not intellect, drives motivation. Lehrer points out, “Emotion and motivation share the same Latin root, movere, which means ‘to move.’ The world is full of things, and it is our feelings that help us choose among them.”

You have to find that motivation within, and very often that motivation comes from feeling so emotionally connected to what we want that nothing else matters. It’s the core purpose of our being. We have to go on this quest. We have to enter our Extraordinary World, no matter the cost, no matter the odds, no matter the outcome.

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