We may understand the journey; we may even have a sound vehicle; but on any journey—whether through athletics or in daily life we need sufficient emotional fuel to get moving.
Different from physical-vital energy, emotional energy creates the feeling impulse to move toward our goals; we call it motivation. When emotional energy flows through us freely, without obstructions, we feel naturally motivated. There is no force more powerful than a motivated human being We've all heard success stories about underdogs who produced miracles from the stuff of motivation. Motivation serves as a key to any process of training and beats at the heart of emotional talent.
Nothing great was ever achieved
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Inspiration and motivation can make the difference between victory and defeat, success and failure, or even life and death. The energy derived from motivation carries distance runners past the "wall of pain" when their physical energy reserves are exhausted. On the other hand, strapping athletes bursting with vital physical energy who lack a directed emotional impulse to strive for their goals may wander aimlessly and arrive nowhere in particular.
We all appreciate the importance of self discipline but think of discipline as doing what we don't really feel like doing. With sufficient motivation, we're so inspired that we don't even think about discipline. As a young gymnast, for example, I was so inspired and excited that I trained six days a week for more than four hours a day for years and never felt as if I were "working" or that I needed discipline. They key for me was to keep my eye on the shining goal that inspired me.
Once released, the power of emotional energy can work magic: It smothers fear and steam rolls over obstacles. An obstacle is just something we worry about when we've taken our eyes off the goal.
I've seen athletes who were long-shots develop into national champions through directed emotional energy. Eric, a teammate of mine, had had polio as a child. His legs were so atrophied that when I first saw him he had to walk with braces or on crutches. He became a specialist on the rings. He simply worked harder than anyone. It wasn't enough to develop superior strength; he also began to practice a dismount from the rings that took him about nine feet in the air. He performed a full-twisting somersault and, by some incredible feat of will, landed unassisted on those spindly legs. Over and over I'd see him crash to the floor. His brother told me he used to go home and cry, the pain in his legs was so intense. After three years, Eric was able to run around the gym without leg braces, and he placed second in the national championships.
In daily life, little tasks that require only a modest amount of energy do not require great motivation for their completion. The world of athletics, however, demands much more of us.
Most of us relate to motivation passively, as if it were something that descends upon us without our control. We might feel motivated on one day but not on another day. The message of this chapter is that all the motivational energy we'll ever need is within us.
Emotional talent is the capacity to stimulate and draw upon one's natural fountain of energy. Developing emotional talent is learning to blow into our own sails.
When we speak of emotions, we often refer to "positive" emotions like joy, serenity, and elation, and "negative" emotions like fear, sorrow, or anger. The latter are not true emotions at all but emotional obstructions that block the free and natural flow of motivation. To understand this better, let's look beck to our infancy: