The laws of physics posit that a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. As with matter, so with life.
Moments of clarity and inspiration feel wonderful! They’re motivating and offer a sense of direction and purpose. Those moments provide the goals we set for ourselves, and when we achieve our goals (or discover new paths), we have a way to measure how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown. Setting goals is natural. It’s inevitable. New Year’s resolutions. Bottom lines. If the only way we can go is forward, then dreams and intentions are like the magnetic poles that guide our compasses.
How do you ignore the different life forces, though? The frictions, oppositions, and distractions that slow you down? How do you maintain the sense of urgency that initially impelled you to act?
Tuesday night I watched the Colorado Avalanche lose an ugly game to the Edmonton Oilers. The Avs were shut out 4-0 at home. While my brother and I were watching the game, he verbalized an observation I’ve also had several times: it seems as though the Avs play to the level that they expect of their opponents instead of playing consistently skillfully in their own right. The Avalanche team that was on the ice Tuesday night had neither the spark nor speed it possessed against more formidable opponents last week.
When the Avs lost in Detroit last Tuesday and in Chicago last Wednesday, it wasn’t for lack of effort. Those games were full of explosive plays up and down the ice. There’s a long-standing rivalry between Colorado and Detroit that heightened each player’s performance, but ultimately it was the Red Wings who came out with the W. The Avs, however, did not let that loss discourage them when they played the hottest team in the NHL the next night. They battled and even held the lead for a while before losing again.
Two nights later, the Avalanche had a rematch against the Blackhawks in Denver. They still did not let the frustrations of the games from earlier in the week get to them. Rather they stayed committed to playing good hockey and finally annihilated the best team in the league 6-2 and handed Chicago their first regulation loss of the season.
The Avs won again on Sunday night in dramatic fashion when Matt Duchene scored a goal with less than half a second remaining in the overtime period. The San Jose Sharks had beaten the Avs in their first two meetings of the season (both in San Jose), but Colorado closed out the series between the two teams with a win at home. But instead of using the wins against Chicago and San Jose to build momentum and confidence in their abilities as a team (individually there is so much damn talent!), the Avalanche diminished their level of play against an inferior team that, at the time of writing this, only leads the Avs by one point in the playoff race; with that loss the Avalanche are now dead last in the Western Conference.
What separates mediocrity from greatness? How were the Chicago Blackhawks able to go 24 games without losing in regulation while the Colorado Avalanche struggle to string more than two wins together at a time? What sparks a sense of urgency in the first place, and then how do you sustain and stoke the flame into something lasting and meaningful? People are all made with the same basic stuff. Water. Bones and flesh. We require the same air for survival. But our desires and motivations and confidence levels and strategies for execution are so different. While this keeps the world interesting and colorful and inspiring, etc., I am in awe of that intangible factor that allows one person to stave off the frustrations that would knock another person on his behind.
How does one develop the kind of steely determination that conquers doubt and discouragement? Where does one find the steadfastness to follow through on a project with the same zeal with which she started? What is the magical measure of passion that makes all of those outside forces irrelevant?