Psychologists often examine the impact of nature (genetics) and nurture (learned behaviors) on overall human development, with a general understanding that both nature and nurture work in tandem resulting in the person that you are today. To the extent that nature or nurture is more important than the other will always be debated, and this is especially true when we make attributions of others and their level of success. In some cases we recognize that an individual has learned important skills resulting in their success, but in many instances we assume their success is a product of natural talent, genetics, and biological advantages (nature). It is at this point that I want to challenge this assumption, and encourage you to do the same. While natural advantages can not be ignored, my experience has been that the vast majority of clients I have worked with experience success because of their motivation, focus, and resiliency — in other words, the nurture part of the equation.
How you can improve the “nurture” part of the equation
Since we have little say over our biology, and much more control over our ability to learn, we will focus on a few variables every athlete can improve upon without luck or the help of others:
- Time management. Learning how to be efficient with your time is an invaluable skill and can help with school and sport success. While there will always be 24 hours in a day, how you use those hours each day will directly impact your personal development and likelihood for future success.
- Focus. What and where you direct your attention from moment to moment each day will impact your attitude and direct your behaviors, making this another invaluable life skill relating to success. Focus also includes directing your attention toward things relevant toward your success, while ignoring irrelevant distractions.
- Motivation. Being willing to do what the competition will not do is a choice and completely independent from your biology and DNA. Who will be the first to practice and the last to leave?
- Resiliency. Learning how to cope with adversity and learn from mistakes is yet another example of human choice, not genetic supremacy. Athletes who do not see failure as an option develop a great resiliency toward aches and pains, poor coaching decisions, and bad calls on the field — in other words they just keep on going, regardless of what they are up against.
Rather than wasting time with needless frustration over your lacking size, strength, or speed, why not put more effort into life skills like the ones described above so that you can beat the competition? The best athletes do not rely on natural abilities and talents, but instead maximize their potential by mastering important life skills to help with efficiency and success.
I often hear athletes complain about their personal shortcomings, but this is wasted energy that could be re-directed toward improving upon the natural talents that you do have, and the potential to make up ground through personal choices and the commitment to excellence. Sport (and life) success often comes down to who wants it more, and the decisions we make (not our genetics) directly answer this question.