Sunday, 7 October 2007

To Achieve Success Keep Your Focus on Your Goals

At the start of Grand Prix at Sinopec, China , James Allen, one of the commentators for ITV, said:

"To finish first you first have to finish."

It proved to be a rather ominous warning for rookie Formula One driver Lewis Hamiliton (McLaren) who this weekend had the 2007 world championship in his sights.

He had the perfect setup for the race. He had clinched pole position and was leading for most of the race. However, Hamilton was on intermediates and his tyres were becoming increasingly worn. McLaren delayed bringing Hamilton in for new tyres, the weather was somewhat changeable and they didn't want him to be on the wrong tyres. But better the wrong tyres than no tyres at all because as the race progressed his tyres became so degraded that his loss of grip was costing him valuable seconds and allowing second-placed Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) to ease closer and closer.

Raikkonen overtook Hamilton on lap 29 and Hamilton immediately started to fall behind with his control of his car diminishing. He finally made for the pits on lap 32 but, as he rounded the ninety degree left-hand corner in the entry lane, he slid off and ended up in the gravel. His race was over and his quest to win the world championship stretched further into the distance.

Raikkonen won convincingly with Hamilton's team-mate Fernando Alonso in second and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) in third. Although Hamilton gained no points from this race, Raikkonen's win was both a blessing and a curse as it means that he still had a four point lead over his nearest rival Alonso.

Hamilton's fate reminded me of the number goals that we set ourselves and never achieve simply because we do not finish them. Though this is not the case of Hamilton, who with disappointment etched upon his normally smiling face said, "I’m sorry for the team, but I can still do it," we often give up when the going gets tough. We also lose focus of our goals as we allow distractions to get the better of us.

We may start to convince ourselves that the goal was not important or even not achievable in the first place. We start to rack up a series of incomplete goals and this starts to nibble away at our self-confidence so that each successive goal we set becomes harder and harder to achieve.

When we find ourselves confronted with obstacles or distractions this is a key time when we need to maintain our focus. We need to remind ourselves of what is at stake and by staying focussed on our goal we will be able to surmount any obstacle that comes our way. We need to remember that what we learn as we strive to achieve our goals is as important as achieving the goal itself. The obstacles you encounter are actually gifts placed in your path to strengthen you and help you to grow rather than to frustrate you.

"In every adversity there lies the seed of an equivalent advantage. In every defeat is a lesson showing you how to win the victory next time."
Robert Collier

Hamilton made a mistake going into the pits that arguably he would not have made if he were on better tyres. Still, as Henry Ford said:

"Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement."

Hamilton can achieve his dream but his rivals will fight him to the very last lap at the last race in Brazil. He needs to place second or third to be assured of the title. It will not be an easy challenge. It will require him to use the best of his driving skills. The Brazilian track will again be unknown territory but Hamilton has raced and won on unfamiliar tracks during this season. He will need to draw upon all his experience and that of his team. He will need to be in the zone where there is no separation between man and machine.

The two weeks separating the Shanghai race and that of the one in Brazil could have been two of the happiest weeks in Hamilton's life. Instead, they will probably feel like two of the longest. He will have to use his maximum powers of concentration to keep his focus on success and on his goal of becoming world champion. It will be ultimate test of focus.

Racing driver Mario Andretti would perhaps repeat these words of wisdom to Hamilton:

"Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs."

The Power of Concentration

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