I’ve often wondered ‘am I going beyond what my mind says I am capable of’. And when I look around I know the answer. No, there is a vast array of diverse fields, which I have not even attempted, even though many of them interested me. And the day to which I have been postponing such ventures, today, is already in front of me! It striked me sharply when I came across these two amazing feats of human achievements.
The first one is now the well-known story of Arunima Sinha. Arunima, a former national volleyball and football player, boarded the Padmavati Express train at Lucknow for Delhi on 11 April 2011, to take an examination to join the CISF(Central Industrial Security Force, an Indian Government Organization which looks after integrated security cover for Public Sector Undertakings). Thieves wanting to snatch her bag and gold chain pushed her out of the train. Immediately, as she fell on the railway track, another train on a parallel track crushed her leg below the knee. She was rushed to the hospital with serious leg and pelvic injuries, and lost her leg after doctors amputated it to save her life.
She received a prosthetic leg and was able to walk in six months.
While in the hospital in Delhi, Arunima resolved to climb Mount Everest. She did intensive training, and after a hard toil of 17 hours, she reached the summit of Mount Everest at 10:55 am on 21 May 2013, as part of the Tata Group-sponsored Eco Everest Expedition, becoming the first female amputee to scale Everest. What an achievement! This is triumph of mind over adversities. Hats off to Arunima!
The second story is equally amazing, that of Don Pellman. In September 2015 during the Senior Olympics in San Diego, U.S, Don broke five world records. And guess how old he is. He just celebrated his 100th birthday! Wow!
Don became the first centenarian to break 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash and the first to clear an official height in the high jump. He also broke records for men in the shot put, discus and long jump. And when he could not clear the bar in the pole vault, he was unhappy with himself, saying he needs more practice. What a spirit! This is crossing all physical barriers. Not stopping till you reach the goal and going beyond.
So even though most of us have the potential to excel in their chosen field, only a very few actually get there. Why is that the case? While most of us would simply be happy to just watch Olympics at the age of 100, only one actually participates at that age and breaks records. Why is this? Here is what I’ve come up with:
Awareness of Potential: The starting point on the way to excellence is simply the awareness of our talent and potential. Each person, without exception, has a unique skill or talent. Amidst the daily burden of living, which is subsistence, one never has time to think high, leave alone aim high. And to be aware, one needs triggers, stories like above and motivating people around. If you surround yourself with the good and virtuous, it will raise you to new heights. If you are in the midst of ordinary all the time, it could drag you to mediocrity.
Single pointed focus: Once the seed of excellence, that idea is planted, that should be the only goal to the exclusion of everything else—almost that is. Allowing for day-to-day maintenance activities, which should be a bare minimum, keep thinking and doing something for the newfound goal. It is your choice, your passion and you need to give it a chance, your 100 %, may be more than you think. We fail in our endeavor, not because we chose the wrong goal, but because we have been spreading thin, meaning we take up too many tasks on all fronts, social, family and personal. Then we are back to subsistence, not moving out of our small world. So the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And beware of distractors, there are many. You need to tide over them.
Continuous practice: No one has achieved that extraordinary success by just chance. What we don’t see are the super human efforts, the hard work that has gone to make it. We see so many tennis champions and envy their success and the money they get, but we don’t know that they all have invariably been practicing on the court for hours, day and night to perfect those shots. In the book ‘Outliers’ Malcolm Gladwell has gone deep into what makes people outstanding, and his key finding is that it is all hard work, and not just talent. People such as Bill Gates of Microsoft have toiled very hard to put in enormous hours in their field of choice to get to the position they are in. Even at the age of 100, Don Pellman said he needs to practice more. There is a quick test to find out whether or not you are progressing towards your goal. How many hours did you spend last week in doing something, which will help you achieve your number one goal? And if you ask this question every week, every day, it will help you focus on that ‘Goal’.
Visualize success: The first woman CEO of Fortune 20 companies, Carly Fiorina, when going past headquarters of Hewlett Packard very often imagined herself to be working there. And one day she was the CEO of that company. So have you thought how success would look like? Where will you be? How would you celebrate? The more elaborate plan you have about your success, the more vividly you picturise, the more clearly you will see the way to achieve it. Visualization is a very strong technique, a proven one to make your plans come true. So have a clear idea about what you really want in your life, most of us have not got that defined. We may have vague ideas, but not detailed enough to convert into some achievable plans. If that is the case, what chance is there for us to realize our dream? Think, dream and live that goal every day, every moment! The results will be astonishing.
Divine support: When we see successful people, high achievers, we invariably think how lucky they are. But we all can make our luck, it is in our hands. The other name of luck is the Divine support, His intervention! We need to have intense belief in our capabilities, in ourselves. When we join this with our complete faith and trust in the Divine, nothing is impossible. It is not the religious practice we are talking about, but simply being constantly aware of His universal presence, His benevolence, being grateful for what you are achieving. The great Indian sage Maharshi Patanjali, the pioneer of Yoga, who lived hundreds of years ago, has said: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extra-ordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, you will find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be”.
So let us discover ourselves by going beyond the limitations of our mind!