Everyone experiences the doldrums. Adversity can strike hard, or it may gradually drag you down. You have a choice. You can give in to it and experience a slow decay, or you can fight back and win. Giving in requires no effort. It is easy. You simply accept defeat. Fighting back requires mental toughness.

Awareness of your goal is the first step. Make the choice to give up some of your less important activities to reach your goal. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you toward your goal. From morning until bedtime, we are so busy that we rarely take time to identify our mission in life. If your mission comes from within, motivation will be easy. Imagine that you have achieved your goal. Live in a world of sureness and self-confidence. When others look at you, allow them to see a person who is filled with spirit. Give them a snapshot of an inner strength they can admire. I cannot tell you what purpose to strive for, but when you are ready, you will start. It is your level of readiness that determines your motivation.

After you decide on a goal, figure out why you want it. Then decide how you will get there. And finally, imagine what you will do when you get there. Resist the temptation to compare yourself with others. To reach your highest levels, compete with yourself. Practicing and training to reach your goals is important. However, the most important thing is your attitude about your goal. If your attitude is right, your goal is constantly being refined according to your opportunities and obstacles.

You alone have the power to determine your attitude. On my first day of a required gymnastics class at Penn State, my teacher, the Olympic gymnastics coach, informed us if we could hold a hand-stand for seven seconds we would receive an "A" in the class and never be required to return. My classmates and I had two weeks to practice our handstands. I practiced handstands night and day. On test day, I held my handstand to a count of six seconds, and ever so slowly, in the agony of defeat, I tumbled to the floor. Later I discovered that for the previous two weeks, I had been practicing my handstand with improper form. So do it, but do it right. Focus in. NIKE also says, "There is no finish line." You can continue to get better and better. On the wall of my karate school in Okinawa was a sign that read, "Even the expert has his master." Be the best you can be as you strive for excellence. Work hard but enjoy what you have already accomplished. There will always be another goal. When things are going well, your motivation will skyrocket.

During down times, be patient and focused. Your goal will be drawn to you. When you get close to your goal are you aware of your feelings? Do you feel tense?If so, take a deep breath from your diaphragm so your stomach puffs out. Exhale, and allow tension to be released. If you are tired, a deep breath can make you more alert. When you claim you are too nervous to relax, that is when you need it the most. You cannot force yourself to relax. Relaxation will happen if you let it. When you learn the difference between tension and relaxation you will have a better chance of reaching your goal.

Don't take yourself and your goal too seriously. Enjoy a sense of humor. Humor cuts through stress. A good belly laugh releases anxiety. You cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time. However, you may become too relaxed. During the Taekwondo World Championships in Germany, I was in the locker room practicing my relaxation exercise. I was suddenly aroused as the loudspeaker blared, "Last call, Seabourne, U.S.A." I had fallen asleep on the locker room bench.

Personalize your relaxation techniques to meet your needs. You might take a deep breath, or simply pretend to be relaxed. You could daydream about the beach, pray, or practice slowing your heartbeat. Aquajogging allows you to combine activity with relaxation. Whatever works for you, do it.

Body Awareness Control

l. Monitor your present level of anxiety (muscles, breathing, mental activity).

2. Is your anxiety level high, low, or just right?

3. If it is high, take a deep breath from your diaphragm. Exhale and let all of the tension flow out of your body.

4. If you are too relaxed, or bored, think about your goal and get moving.

Overcoming Nerves

l. When anxiety strikes, monitor your muscles, and watch your breathing.

2. If your muscles tense, and your breathing speeds up, use your relaxation technique.

3. Your muscles will relax, and your breathing will return to normal.

4. Supple muscles and deep rhythmic breathing will allow you to handle your nerves.