Reaching the top in any field is a momentous achievement. And no doubt it involves working hard over a prolonged period of time. Sustainable success, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition.
Since Novak Djokovic finally won the French Open – becoming the only man to hold all four majors at once; he has suffered a dramatic drop in form. And it has taken him 12 months to rediscover anything close to his best.
Similarly, when Sir Andy Murray became the world’s number one tennis player, I wonder if he realised just how hard it would be to maintain it. Certainly, he acknowledged it took many years of hard work to get there. And that it had been such a difficult thing to do because of how good the players around him have been.
Staying at the top is proving just as difficult. Now he’s the ‘hunted’; the one with a target on his back. Of course, being able to say that you’ve beaten the world’s best is a fantastic addition to a person’s CV.
Before the new rankings had even been confirmed, I remember one tennis pundit saying numerous players had attained the world number one spot for a week. And he implied it would be an embarrassment if Murray couldn’t maintain that position in the longer-term.
He is still at the top of the rankings, six months later, which is testament to how consistently well he played for the second half of last season. Since then, like Djokovic, he’s struggled to get through the early rounds of most tournaments in which he’s played.
That you’re only as good as your last result isn’t entirely true. In tennis, a player’s ranking is determined by their best 18 tournament results over the previous 52 weeks. And whilst Murray acknowledges that the past few months have not been good enough to merit the number one ranking; he has been the best player over the past 12 months.
In a recent interview Murray said there were points towards the end of last year when he wasn’t number one, but he felt like he was the best player in the world. And yet, this year he is number one and certainly hasn’t been the best player out there.
As a professional athlete and sports personality Murray’s story shows us all just how difficult it is to stay at the top. And Djokovic’s experience demonstrates what can happen once you’ve achieved all your goals.
So, how can we apply the learning to our own endeavours?
Firstly, take stock of your achievement as you arrive at each milestone. And then re-evaluate key objectives so you can go again. In addition, take the time to celebrate your success.
If you start reaching for the next goal, without enjoying the satisfaction of your latest achievement, you risk losing motivation. And without that it’s hard to fire up. And as a result the task ahead becomes a whole lot harder.