Do you have a will to win or a will to prepare to win?

Today is September 5 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you have a will to win or a will to prepare to win?” People who achieve their goals either personally or professionally understand that having a will to win is far from enough; they must also have a will to prepare. The will to prepare must exceed one’s will to win. One cannot simply ‘will’ themselves to win. Fielding H. Yost was the head football coach at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for 25 seasons at the beginning of the twentieth century. His remarkably successful squads dominated opponents and won several national championships. During the 1929-30 academic year Yost delivered a speech to teachers in the Public Schools Athletic League of New York City. His “Wingate Memorial Lecture” included this statement:

“The will to win. We hear a lot about that. The will and the wish to win, but there isn’t a chance for either one of them to be gratified or to have any value unless there has been a will to prepare to win: the will to prepare for service, to do the things that build and develop our capacity, physical, mental, and moral.” Yost reiterated this notion during several speeches over time as this ‘will to prepare to win’ was adopted by coaches, athletes, and others. Do you have a will to win or a will to prepare to win?

If you visualize your desire to lose weight, write a book, or any other goal, what good is that if all you do is think about it? Research illustrates having the will to win without putting in the daily grind over years often results is disappointment, unfilled dreams, and lost goals. Researchers Heather Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen, publishing in the July 2011 edition of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that not only is positive visualization ineffective, but it is also counterproductive. In their article “Positive fantasies about idealized futures sap energy,” the researchers discuss how their experiments helped them understand how conjuring positive fantasies of success drains the energy out of ambition. This is critical to understand for anyone trying to navigate the chaos and translate dreams into reality.

When people visualize having reached a goal the research by Kappes and Oettingen found that brains routinely fall for the trick. Instead of mustering more energy to get "there," people inadvertently trigger a relaxation response that mimics how they would feel if they had reached the goal. Physiologically, the researchers discovered people fell back into their comfort zone and came under the illusion that all is well in their world. Falling prey to this ‘energy sap’ separates those who navigate the chaos from those who lack the ability to do so.

Another study out of UCLA looked at the differences between when people visualize the desired outcome versus when they visualize the outcome and the required process for achieving it. College freshmen were asked to either visualize receiving a good grade on a midterm exam or to visualize the good grade as well as the study habits they would use to achieve a good grade on the exam. The results echoed the findings of the work by Kappes and Oettingen. This study found that students who visualized only the good grade (and not the process by which they would achieve it) scored lower than the other students.

Now look, visualization is an important tool successful people use. But do understand it is one of many tools in their armamentarium. Simply visualizing some sought after goal without putting in the daily grind over the long-term required to translate a dream into reality is a most likely a detour to an unfulfilled life. Author Roy T. Bennett noted “Dreams don't work unless you take action. The surest way to make your dreams come true is to live them.” Do you have a will to win or a will to prepare to win? Are you just dreaming, or do you have the will to prepare by putting in the daily grind day after day?

  • Do you have a will to win or a will to prepare to win?

  • Do you understand the difference between the two?

  • What will you do today to help you prepare to win?

  • What have you done today to develop your physical, mental, or moral capacity to win?

  • What have you done recently to make your dreams come true?