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How To Think Successfully – Living North Magazine, Apr 22 Issue

How to Think Successfully – Living North Magazine, Apr 22 Issue

As we all look on in awe at the amazing feats at the Winter Olympics, should we whether Olympic athletes are superhuman or just robots, or are they somehow a different species from the rest of us? What can we learn from their extraordinary endeavours?

In my experience of working with great champions, from Olympians to hugely successful businesspeople, to be a champion, you must compete. To be a great success, you must compete with the best; but to achieve your greatest success, you must compete with yourself.

I was watching Max Parrot achieve great things this week – three years after serious chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkins disease, during which he lost all his muscle tone and fitness and was very ill for six months. Max completed an inspiring comeback from extraordinary challenges by winning the gold medal in the men’s slopestyle at the Winter Olympics, on a course that includes replicas of the Great Wall of China. ‘I had to stop everything to fight and fight for my dreams,’ he said. ‘I felt like a lion in a cage as everything I lived for was taken away when I got Hodgkin and I had to get it back.’ And wow, did he just do that. An Olympic gold medal.

So, what makes Max different from us? Max is not superhuman nor a robot, he is just like you and me, with the same doubts, concerns and anxieties. However, he has two differences; he had cancer get between him and his dreams, but he did not let any obstacle get in the way.

To be a great success, you must compete with the best; but to achieve your greatest success, you must compete with yourself


For many of us, age, fitness, laziness, and anxiety set our limitations. We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. The very real key to our success is not through achievement but through our enthusiasm.

I say, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been, as the health of your brain is much more about your actions than your age. I ask that you leap off the fence of indecision. Get out of the ‘want to’ lane and put yourself into the ‘got to’ lane.

You know dreams are free, but goals have a cost, and the costs include taking action and building resilience. Goals don’t come without a price, which is time, effort, sacrifice, and sweat. It’s what successful people like the business people and athletes I work with show me every day. If you can see it here and you have courage enough to speak it, it will happen. People believe in certain things, but they keep it to themselves, they don’t put it out there. If you truly believe in it, if you become vocal with it, you create that law of attraction and it will become reality. Ronaldo, one of the greatest footballers of all time, said: ‘I’ve never tried to hide the fact that it is my intention to become the best.’

We often see very successful people as rather inhuman, robots, somehow a different species from the rest of us, no longer prey to randomness, luck or doubt. Swimmer Michael Phelps said: ‘Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.’

So, how do you feed your mind with success?

  1. Get a vision board: I believe whatever we think about we bring about. Everybody has to find their own stroke. What underlies all winning mentalities is optimism and belief in their vision. You must stay with it and truly believe in the prize and reinforce that belief all along the way. I often tell my clients that failure, self-doubt and negative opinions (both internal and external) are normal. Expect them. Deal with them and keep moving forward.
  2. Commitment: Commitment is a big part of what I believe. How committed are you to being successful? How committed are you to being a good friend? To being trustworthy? To winning? How committed are you to being a good father or mother, a good teammate, a good role model? There’s that moment every morning when you look in the mirror: are you committed, or are you not? Success at anything will always come down to this: focus and effort. And we control both.
  3. Generate momentum with small steps: I hear many people talking about ‘riding the wave’. Successful people aren’t that passive. They live by this motto: ‘First build your wave, then ride it’.
  4. Take Action: Ultimately, you can’t think your way to a goal. You have to take action. Winning mindsets aren’t innate. They’re developed.

Success is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, committing more than other believe reasonable, overcoming doubts and obstacles that others are afraid of, and expecting more than others think is possible.

Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to NHS, Australian Cricket Team, Durham Cricket Club, International Golfers, Rugby and many sportspeople, and also coaches many Senior FTSE 100 Business Leaders and Politicians around the world. Find out more at or follow him on Twitter @thebeaksquawks.