Saturday, 19 September 2009

Goal Achievement: To Achieve Your Goals You Need A Big Enough Why

Goal achievement is tough - make no doubt about it. As soon as you set yourself a challenging goal obstacles will present themselves. And, if you don't have a big enough why they will stop you dead in your tracks and you'll abandon your goal. However, if you have a big enough why the obstacles you face will not matter. You'll find a way to power past them.

For a great example of this let's go back to 1973 and an epic tennis match - Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King. This wasn't an epic match in the same vein as the Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer 2008 Wimbledon final in terms of the length of the match and the number of games played, etc. It was an epic match because of what it signified.

Back in the seventies there was a stark inequality between women's and men's tennis. Bobby Riggs was himself a tennis champion but he was also a self-proclaimed male chauvinist. He was of the view that women were the weaker sex and inferior athletes.

On Mother's Day in 1973 he added fuel to his claims by beating Margaret Court. Upon winning he immediately sought to claim another scalp by challenging the then 29 year old Billie Jean King to a match. Even though Bobby Riggs was 55 and at the end of his career he boasted that his masculinity gave him the advantage and that he would be able to vanquish Billie Jean King.

The build-up to this tennis match was reminiscent of the build-up to a boxing duel. The boasts of the challenger and the media hype were such that the match became known as "The Battle of the Sexes".

Billie Jean King was disgruntled by the fact that sportswomen were paid so poorly compared to their male counterparts. She accepted the match to prove that women were not the weaker sex. And, especially after Margaret Court's defeat, losing simply wasn't an option. It would have been disastrous for the women's rights movement. She said:

"I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match. It would ruin the women's tour and affect all women's self esteem."

This was a match that captured the imagination of the country as well as tennis enthusiasts. The matched was played on 20 September at the Astrodome Court in Huston in front of a capacity crowd of 30,472 people - at that time the largest audience for a live tennis match. The match also received prime time coverage for an estimated 50 million viewers.

And viewers didn't just witness one of the most significant tennis matches of all time, they saw a grand spectacle as well. Billie Jean King was carried on a red velvet litter carried by hunky University of Houston football players in short togas. Bobby Riggs, on the other hand, as befitting his character, entered the stadium in a carriage pulled by women dressed in sexy outfits. However, once the pageantry was over it was down to business.

Bobby Riggs tried his best to fend off Billie Jean King but she won emphatically in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Riggs who thought he had both the mental and physical advantage was proved wrong on both counts:

"It was mainly a case of overconfidence on my part. I overestimated myself. I underestimated Billie Jean's ability to meet the pressure. I let her pick the surface and the ball because I figured it wouldn't make a difference, that she would beat herself."

And, it's ironic that despite Billie Jean King's many accomplishments (she won six Wimbledon singles championships, four U.S. Open titles and was ranked No. 1 in the world five years) she is perhaps best remembered for the manner in which she despatched Bobby Riggs.

On that September day back in 1973, she wasn't just playing for her own glory she was playing for women the world over.

Neil Amdur wrote in The New York Times:

"Most important perhaps for women everywhere, she convinced skeptics that a female athlete can survive pressure-filled situations and that men are as susceptible to nerves as women."

And with this victory Billie Jean King achieved another goal as well. In 1973, the US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.

So what's your why? What is it that will make you stretch and go beyond your former limits? Find that powerful why and you'll simply amaze yourself with the goals you're able to achieve.

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