It’s lonely at the top.
When asked what continues to drive him day in and day out, Lebron James says he wants to be remembered as the greatest player to ever play the game. Not the best player right now or the best player of his generation. The greatest ever. Period.
Some would say he’s chasing a ghost.
That it simply can’t be done.
They say he will never be Jordan. Or Kareem. Or even Magic.
Others would argue he’s already there.
Whether you’re a fan of Lebron or not, most people can agree on one thing; the man oozes motivation. Since entering the NBA, Lebron has somehow maintained his status as a top-three and often number one player in the league.
And how do you think someone at the top of their craft stays ahead of the pack? They do everything in their power to remain lonely.
“Ask me to steal, block out, sacrifice, lead, dominate. Anything. But it’s not what you ask of me, it’s what I ask of myself.”- Lebron James
Here’s How Motivation Really Works
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation or internal motivation refers to your inner drive.
Extrinsic motivation or external motivation is behavior driven by rewards like money or fame.
So, the key is to combine both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for a full-bodied approach to keep pushing you forward.
This is easier said than done.
Motivation isn’t forged overnight
LinkedIn thought leaders and keynote speakers will tell you to set goals and make rewards systems.
What do they never say? Change your beliefs on what’s possible.
Most people don’t lack motivation- they simply haven’t grasped the bigger picture yet. Extraordinarily motivated individuals and inspiring role models often strike us as anomalies. In reality, they have unlimited beliefs on what’s possible.
I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of examples which we sometimes dub a “rags to riches” feat. While every story is unique in its own way, there are often striking similarities in the mental pursuit of these extraordinary individuals.
And it’s all rooted in their motivation.
Think of someone like Buddy Hield, an undersized guard from the Bahamas whose high school coach once said that the only way to send him home was to lock up the gyms basketballs. It is even reported that Hield used to tell people that he was going to the NBA when he was younger and they would turn around and laugh in his face. Players from the Bahamas rarely ever made it.
Or take Oprah Winfrey who grew up in a world of physical and emotional abuse, only to become one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. As Oprah said, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” People like Oprah have surrounded themselves with positive catalysts for change and opened their minds to a whole realm of possibilities that the average person fails to see.
Why Do You Do What You Do?
“How you do anything is how you do everything.”- Ryan Holiday
My rowing coach in college used to tell us that you will always remember the strokes you don’t take. Years later I realized how true his words were. I don’t remember my great races- the memories that haunt me are the times when we struggled. When things were going poorly, my motivation was to simply get across the finish line without messing up.
When everything was connecting perfectly, I wanted to win. And more than that, I wanted every stroke taken in practice to be worthwhile. All the blood, sweat, and sacrifice. I wanted to pull the seven other individuals across the line and be proud of what we had accomplished as a unit.
Your why is what gives you the strength to perform at the highest level. Whether it’s finishing a race, writing a book, or learning a new skill, your why is what pushes you far beyond the brink of comfort.
Because how you do anything is how you do everything.
Everything we do matters. Each individual action is a snapshot of something larger. We owe it to ourselves to do it well.
You won’t feel motivated every day. But this doesn’t mean you can simply give up on your goal and quit. Motivation is a marathon, not a sprint.
How far are you willing to go to keep moving in the right direction?
I’m sure if you asked Lebron he would tell you it’s lonely at the top. And I can guarantee he wouldn’t want it to be any other way.
This article first appeared on Medium.