Elite swimmers Michael Phelps [USA], Ian Thorpe [Aus.] and Anthony Ervin [USA] all made their Olympic debut at the Sydney Olympics 2000. Ever since Michael Phelps who has participated in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics: winning a total of 28 medals with 23 of them are GOLD: is the most decorated Olympian of all times. Ian Thorpe also took part in the 2004 Athens Olympics since Sydney 2000 and has 5 Olympic gold medals to his credit. Whereas, Anthony Ervin after winning his first Gold medal at the Sydney Olympics 2000, surprised everyone by announcing his retirement, at the age of 22. But, by staging a comeback and winning an Olympic Gold after 16 years ever since he first won gold medal [2000 summer Olympics]: at the age of 35 years – Ervin has scripted the greatest comeback in the history of sports.
To find out what happened in the in-between years of Ervin’s life watch the video below:-
When you look at the dramatic happenings post the first gold medal win [Sydney Olympics] it becomes clear that his goal setting and his motivation factor did not support a long celebrated career that a Michael Phelps or a Roger Federer enjoys. Ervin Anthony has admitted that his dream was to win an Olympic gold medal- once that was achieved he stopped enjoying the competition and felt jaded. He lost the sense of purpose and meaning in life and chose to retire. This was a clear case of a lack of a long term goal and an intrinsic motivation to be the best- that would have helped him to sustain his motivation to continue for a longer period of time.
Ervin rediscovers the magic
It was after he was invited to New York to teach kids swimming he rediscovered his love for water. The joy on the faces of the children sparked a new found motivation in Ervin. He felt that the fire left in him was still burning. He took to the pool and worked hard. Soon, he became a member of the US Olympic squad to the London Olympics 2012[finished fifth]. He has expressed that it was during this period he felt unfinished and wanted to do more- through effort he continued to grow and improve [Intrinsic motivation]. At 35, 4 years later at RIO [2016 Olympic Games] he won the gold again.
Message for the aspiring youngsters
When you look at Michael Phelps [5 Olympic Games- 28 Gold medals] and Roger Federer, two of the greatest athletes in the modern era- you are astonished by their longevity. What keeps them going is the burning desire to be the best in business and wanting to get better and better all the time. This is what intrinsic motivation is all about. It is the intrinsic motivation that prompted Ervin’s return to water. And how well he proved he could be the best at 35. Federer talks of wanting to improve & become better in this video:-
So, guys set your goals in line with your most cherished dream and vision. Your goals must be to follow the intrinsic path and the external motivations [rewards, name-fame, money, material comforts, titles, honours etc] will take care of themselves. Don’t restrict your goal to one big achievement as Ervin did. Take steps to sustain your motivation that can stretch your goals towards a long celebrated career.