What is your purpose in life? Many people believe you are on this planet to fulfil your true potential to become the best person you can possibly be. Even if you don’t subscribe to such a belief, just thinking about it certainly has an uplifting effect.

The dust has well and truly settled on Wimbledon for another year, where we treated to some great tennis but equally some remarkable upsets and revelations. Regardless of whether you have an interest in tennis, we can all learn much from the sporting greats about being the best we can be to fulfil your true potential. By showcasing two contrasting examples of naturally talented sportsmen we can see why some have undoubtedly fulfilled their true potential and others have wasted similar opportunities. Why is this important? Because, regardless of what you do in a job or career, we can see very clearly what makes the difference in having a fulfilling career and life.

A tale of two greats

What do Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, have in common? Aside of being great tennis champions and legends in their sport they also:

  • Both have worked unbelievably hard, making huge personal sacrifices to be the best
  • Both still have a great passion for their sport
  • Both are supremely competitive and only ever give their best
  • Both have a highly positive mindset with great clarity and belief in their abilities
  • Despite a fierce rivalry, they have a wonderful respect for each other and their sport
  • Both have overcome adversity e.g. lengthy career threatening injuries, unexpected demoralising losses and come back even stronger
  • Despite winning almost everything in their sport, both are still driven to win more (surprisingly, Federer is still seeking an elusive Men’s singles Olympic Gold medal)
  • Both are totally authentic, always staying true to themselves
  • Both have great personal brands, being revered as role models around the globe

A tale of two potentially greats

What do Bernard Tomic and Dan Evans have in common?

These two names may not be known to you, unless you are a keen tennis or sports fan. However, they also make interesting case studies because, like our ‘two greats’ they both have the gift of natural talent but unlike our ‘two greats’, they have made the headlines for the wrong reasons:

  • Both admit to not working hard enough at their profession
  • Both have been irresponsible and inconsistent in their behaviour
  • Both have lacked clarity in what they are looking to achieve
  • Both have wasted their undoubted natural talent
  • Both have shown disrespect for their families, coaches, fans, sponsors and sport
  • Both have enhanced their ‘bad boy’ reputations and destroyed their personal brand
  • In their own ways, they have both now pressed the ‘self-destruct’ button!

Tomic, an Australian, is still only 24. As an 18 year old qualifier, in his first Wimbledon, he gave Novak Djokovic a real fright before eventually losing in the quarter final. Fast forward 6 years…after bowing out in the first round, this year, he admitted to “lacking motivation and being bored with tennis”. Also, that “holding a trophy or doing well, it doesn’t satisfy me anymore”. If that wasn’t enough he also admitted that “he has probably having never really tried his hardest in any match in his career but as he was good at tennis, if he plays for another 10 years he won’t need to work again”.

Even if he feels this way, why share such negativity with the global media? it’s not exactly motivational, likely to gain him new fans or good PR. If this was a cry for help, he has his family and team around him.

The result, Tomic has been labelled “a disgrace and total embarrassment to tennis” by many fellow professionals and the Australian Tennis Association. He also received the second largest ever fine from Wimbledon of £11,000. He is now extremely unlikely to ever fulfil his true potential.

Dan Evans is 27. A wonderful gritty British tennis player, who has also had his share of troubles. For years, he struggled to achieve his potential and was constantly getting bad press. When he finally started to focus and really put in the hard work, he rose from the obscurity of 772 in the world rankings to become a real force, with a career high of 41. At last year’s US Open, having knocked out some highly-ranked seeds, he came within a point of defeating Stan Wawrinka, the eventual winner. However, at the peak of his career, in the build up to this year’s Wimbledon, came the staggering revelation. He admitted to testing positive for cocaine, albeit in his downtime from competition training.

Evans now faces a lengthy and likely career threatening ban. Knowing the consequences, why take such irresponsible action and throw away a golden opportunity to finally fulfil his true potential?

Like Tomic, his actions have caused much distress amongst his peers, within the sport and no doubt with the very people who have been looking after his best interests and in his case helped him to turn his ailing tennis career and life around.

To fulfil your true potential begin with the end in mind

Begin with the end in mind’ is ‘Habit 2’ from the late Steven Covey’s powerful world best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

As with sporting greats, all successful people have a clear vision of what success means to them in their careers and lives e.g. achieving that management or executive job you have always aspired to, becoming your own boss and a successful business owner, doing work you love and making a difference to the lives of others, having the financial freedom to travel to places far and wide, raising a family and seeing your children ‘fly’ and so on.

If you don’t have a clear vision or end goal, how can you ever plan your journey or fulfil your true potential? It will be like shooting in the dark, as you can’t hit a target you can’t see. Interestingly, another great tennis player, Arthur Ashe said:

“Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is often  more important than the outcome. Not everyone can be number 1 ”.

For sure, we can’t all be world beaters but we can aim to be the best we can be to fulfil our true potential. Therefore, success is about being a ‘work in progress’, striving towards a predetermined goal/destination. It means that what matters is not necessarily where you are at the end, but what you accomplish along the way, your ‘journey goals.’

What can we learn from these examples?

  • Having natural talent on its own is not enough to fulfil your true potential
  • You reap what you sow in terms of hard graft, determination and positive attitude
  • Your mindset is everything e.g. ‘success breeds success’ or it can breed complacency
  • To fulfil your true potential, you need a clear vision of what success means to you
  •  Set challenging end goals but focus on the ‘journey goals’ to help you get there
  • Consistency is key – whatever you do in life, your reputation proceeds you
  • Overcoming adversity can often be the springboard to new or renewed success
  • Be true to yourself – If you lose your passion for what you do, you will never fulfil your true potential
  • Either find ways to rekindle your passion or the time has come to do something different!

From these examples, now consider how close you are or what you need to do to fulfil your true potential?

Steve Preston is a leading Career Coach to professionals and executives, MD of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People development) Ltdmotivational speaker and Internationally acclaimed Author of Career and Personal Development books and products, including Portfolio Careers – How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit, Winning through Career Change and Winning Through Redundancy.