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“Success is a Decision Not a Gift”

“Success is a Decision Not a Gift”
Reading Time: 5 minutes

IMG_0083Powerful message, right? So many of us use the excuses of genetic disadvantage, a lack of time, or even just a disproportionate amount of “luck” as our reasons for not achieving success. Whether that success is a beach body, a promotion at work, or a world record – the steps we need to take to get there are the same.

Steve Backley, former world record holding javelin thrower, now Author and Motivational Speaker, gave a thought-provoking talk on success to kick off the FitPro convention, held at Loughborough University, where Steve once studied towards a Sports Science degree.

Georgina from Fitcetera was lucky enough to grab 10 minutes with Steve after his talk to find out more about his tag line “Success is a decision not a gift” and what it means to you and me.

Steve’s Background

If anyone is qualified to give advice on how to achieve, and more importantly maintain, success then it’s Steve. His sporting career ups and downs have seen him through everything from suffering debilitating injuries and an almost premature retirement to world records and an impressive array of Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World Championship medals.

Studying Sports Science at Loughborough University in 1988, but then leaving to pursue his javelin career, Steve has always been fascinated by the psychological aspect of performance. In 2000, while recovering from knee surgery, his first book “The Winning Mind” was published.

When Steve retired from professional sport he joined forces with Roger Black (also a former athlete) and together they set up the company BackleyBlack, providing training programmes and motivational speeches to help individuals and organisations achieve “Olympic performance in the workplace”.

Olympic Performance Traits

During Steve’s talk he explained the traits required to deliver Olympic Performance, how to focus your mind to achieve success. Below are the traits:

Find your Passion

Discover what your passion really is. What motivates you? How does it affect you, and how can you use it to help you achieve higher levels of performance and consistency?

Create Empowering Beliefs

Eliminate doubt; use positive thinking and visualisation techniques to help you drive success.

Power through Clarity

Know exactly where you are going, and what you need to get there. Be focused.

Surround Yourself with Talent

Establish personal relationships and a framework of support to help you towards your goals.

Deliver Your Maximum

Just make it happen. Take PRIDE in what you do – a Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence. Continue to stretch and challenge yourself to continue to deliver high performance throughout your work and personal life.

The Interview

You’ve got a new book, “The Champion in All of Us”, what can you tell me about it?

“The book highlights the 12 rules for success. I find that people like a model, or framework, to follow so that’s what the book does, but it’s also a fictional novel; it’s fun. It follows four fictional characters, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda and Did, through their pursuit of success at the Olympic Games”

Steve explains how the characters each possess one of the four characteristics that he believes hold us back in life:

“We either lack passion, lack belief or we lack the ability to change” says Steve, “or like Did, we get on with it, believe and are passionate, but really hard to work with! It’s that interdependence.”

The methodology Steve details in his book is consistent between all disciplines; personal fitness, business, or anything else we want to achieve. “If you’re passionate, believe and have the ability to change you will fly.”

You mentioned in your talk that “by trying to stand still, you end up going backwards”, what do you mean by that?

“You have to keep raising the bar. New targets, directions or concepts – they could be small changes, but you layer and add. Say you’ve had a really good 6 month fitness programme that’s got you in really good shape and really worked for you and at the end of that you just say “why don’t I do it again?” It doesn’t work! You need to continually challenge yourself to keep moving forwards, or you will just go backwards.”

Steve also alluded to how the power of success can actually prove to be a distraction: “Successful people have climbed to the top of the mountain, and they often feel like they’ve earned the right to enjoy the view. They start to cut corners – and that’s when even the most successful athlete can end up falling behind.”

What advice would you give to someone who has suffered a setback, for example they’ve picked up an injury?

“You have to go in pursuit of what you want, and never give up.” Speaking of his own experience of injuries, Steve continued “it doesn’t mean I didn’t feel low, or I didn’t have doubts – I just didn’t give up.”

When Steve picked up a nasty Achilles tendon injury, he enlisted the help of Paul McKenna, hypnotist and self-help author. “I really relied on visualisation to get me out of a hole and it came good because of how powerful it is. You need to have a wide enough acceptance of what might be available in terms of solutions. We sometimes look at solutions in quite a blinkered way.”


So you really believe in visualisation for mental focus then?

“I massively believe in visualisation. I would almost go a step further and say that it’s everything. We don’t do anything in life before playing it up in here first” [Steve taps his head] “I think it’s a proven principle of behaviour. Whether we admit to ourselves or not, or even if we don’t structure it, we all say “right, I’m going to do that”. We might not see it either, we might feel it, or we might hear it. But we will engage with something and then we’ll do it. Otherwise it’s just happening to you.”

And on the flip-side, how do you think people can learn to stay grounded?

“I suppose that’s a lot to do with how you’re brought up – some people are just destined to stay grounded, they’re always going to be that way. But, you get humbled a lot in sport. It’s quite arrogant actually, to think you can be the best in the world. You have to have a certain efficacy about you. Anyone who’s aspiring to be the best in the world will trip over. They’ll try, they’ll fail, they’ll learn, they’ll adapt.”

Do you think there’s a certain type of person bound to be an Olympic athlete, and that will succeed? Or is this something that can be developed or learned?

“That’s interesting…” Steve thinks for a moment. “I think some people can learn; some people have a set way of seeing the world and that’s how they are and if it happens to fit where they’re going then they’ll be ok. Sustaining it’s the problem – the goalposts change and you’ve got to change with it. It’s a bit like saying some people are coachable or teachable, some people aren’t. My preference would be working with the ones who can change, understand change and accept change.”

And I guess that’s where the book will come in!

Personally, I found Steve’s advice really useful – the five traits he introduced us to in his talk require active engagement and stimulate thought processes that we might not otherwise follow when we set our goals and objectives. I will definitely be putting them into practice. Inspired and wanting to know more about how to make myself as successful as I can be, I am certainly looking forward to reading “The Champion in All of Us”.

To get your own copy of Steve’s book, “The Champion in All of Us”, visit his website here.  And to find out more about Steve and Roger’s training programmes and motivation talks take a look at BackleyBack.

Georgina Spenceley
Georgina Spenceley

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