Bogdan Knezevic (twitter: @bogdanknez)
Goal setting is a key element of success in life, and is used to provide tangible, realistic guidelines to reaching our dreams, whatever they may be. The fuel for this journey can be provided by any one (or combination) of a multitude of things: determination to prove something, conviction in one’s ideals and cause, or pure excitement and joy of the activity itself. However, an often overlooked and misunderstood source of motivation is anger.
At one point or another, we have all felt anger; anger at ourselves, at the people around us, at the situation we were dealing with. In sport, anger is a common emotion, and frequently boils out at the wrong place or time. If, however, this anger is controlled and directed with purpose and focus, it has the potential to bring out amazing performances that may surprise you.
The true revelation of the simplicity of this idea dawned on me the other day when I was doing some yard work at home. We had recently cut down two trees that were rotting, and had decided to plant two new ones a little farther from the house. Instead of paying the (rather steep) price of $500 to have the holes for the trees dug out by the landscapers, my father and I decided to use this opportunity to bond a little, as well as save a lot of money.
The plan seemed simple enough: two holes, each 4.5 x 4.5 feet, with a depth of 28 inches. It was a fairly warm and sunny day, which provided a pleasant working environment- not the kind of atmosphere one would expect to breed anger. The predisposition for this emotion, however, was visible if one knew where to look. It was a Sunday, the one day off in my week of training- I had already been feeling rather sluggish and burnt out by the time Saturday morning workout had finished. I had started off the day with a soccer match with the men’s league I play in, and with half the team not present at the game, I played both halves fully. I then arrived home and, after a quick bite to eat, proceeded to dig the holes. Within half an hour a few things became crystal clear: the blisters on my feet from soccer would now be accompanied by blisters on my hands from digging, the pleasantly warm day suddenly felt a lot hotter and stickier, and the holes were actually rather large (which wasn’t quite apparent before the work commenced).
Within the hour, I was (likely unjustifiably) angry at the world, at my father, at the trees and at the shovel, but one thing did not change: the holes had to be completed that day since the trees were being delivered the next. At this point it was obvious that there was no turning back since the work absolutely had to be finished, and the moment I realized that, a few key elements changed. The anger, which had been building inside and impeding my work, suddenly served a purpose. Instead of venting out the energy from the frustration building up inside, I poured it into the work I was doing, using it to give me focus and purpose. I worked into a certain rhythm, and developed a pattern of cohesion with my father who was employed alongside me. Within a few hours, both holes were completed, and we were sipping sangria on the porch.
Afterword, I would look back on the afternoon and reflect on how such a potentially destructive emotion helped increase efficiency a thousand fold; if it could work in the yard with such a mundane task, it could surely work in the pool when bigger things are at stake. So next time you have a bad race at a meet, or a teammate messes up in a play, or odds are stacked against you, GET ANGRY! Don’t let your crappy race bring you down and dampen your motivation- get angry at yourself for messing up something you shouldn’t have messed up, and go back to work to fix it. Don’t let the fact that your teammate is having a bad day ruin the game for you- get angry and take the initiative to pick up the slack and turn things around. Don’t let seemingly overwhelming odds drive you away from your goals- get angry at yourself for even considering quitting and use that to drive yourself TOWARD your goals. As long as it is wielded properly, anger can help provide you with the little bit of energy needed to reach those ‘unattainable’ heights.