5 things we can learn from Rafael Nadal’s incredible success

Ever wondered what makes Rafael Nadal so successful?

I mean, he has won 18 Grand Slam titles, the second most in history.

He’s also held the number one spot for a total of 196 weeks. That’s a long time.

I’ve been watching Wimbledon lately (as I’m sure we all have) and it seems like he is playing as well as he ever has.

So in order for us to learn from his success, I thought I’d research what has made Nadal so successful.

Here are 5 things we can learn from Nadal’s success.

1) He is a (good) perfectionist

Some people say being a perfectionist is a liability. In fact, we’ve even said on this blog that perfectionism can be detrimental to achieving your goals.

But perhaps we’ve got it wrong.

According to ex-Spanish tennis star Carlos Moya (now coach of Nadal), “He puts lots of pressure on himself, even in practice…He is a perfectionist, and wants to do everything just right.”

According to experts, there are two types of perfectionism, a good and a bad kind.

Those who try their best and expect themselves and others to do well, but who treat failures as learning opportunities rather than indicators of inferiority, are the good kind of perfectionists.

However, research suggests that those who are motivated to please or impress others perform worse than those who set goals for themselves.

We’re guessing Nadal is almost certainly in the good perfectionism camp.

2) Spirit

Rafael Nadal is known to play the game with a lot of spirit and passion.

In WebMD Magazine, former tennis world champion Mats Wilander says one of Nadal’s strengths is that, even though he’s number one, he keeps switching up his game and keeping it fresh. That’s because the game still thrills him.

In fact, one of Rafael Nada’s famous quotes is, “The glory is being happy … not winning here or there. The glory is enjoying practicing, enjoying each day, enjoying to work hard, trying to be a better player than before.”

This is something that you hear time and time again. The more passionate you are, the more likely you are to find success.

In fact, in a study, researchers at the National Academy of Sciences examined the post-grad success rates of more than eleven thousand students.

Before the entrance to the school, students were required to determine how 9 different factors influenced their choice to attend the school.

These factors were internal and instrumental motives – internal motives include things like “to become a leader in the US military whereas instrumental motives include things like “to get a good job”.

Not surprisingly, students with strong internal motives and weak instrumental motives appeared to be more successful when evaluated after graduation.

3) Managing adversity

While many of us remember Nadal as always being on the top, he has had to endure many ups and downs, both on and off the court.

He has had injury issues that threatened to hinder his career. He had to work through them in order to come back strong.

Ultimately, it’s his resilience that has enabled him to get back to the top of the game time and time again.

And this can be seen when he is playing tennis. He never gives up and gives it his all.

According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, “grit” – passion and sustained persistence despite setbacks – predicts long-term success in nearly every realm of life.

4) Family

Nadal appears like a gladiator when he is playing tennis, but off court Nadal is a humble and family-oriented person.

While tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka make their base in the glamorous surrounds of places like Monaco, Nadal escapes the attention by returning to his place, “Mallorca and Manacor is my life,” Nadal told CNN’s Open Court Show. “This is where I have all the people that I really love – family, friends, everybody.”

Mats Wilander, former world number one, explained to CNN how his uncle and father helped Nadal in the early days and helped contributed to his success:

“I came to watch him practice for three days — it was incredible how one uncle would bring in two freshly-strung rackets, another uncle would come in with lunch, dad was there on and off, back and forth…They care for each other, and the success of Rafa has to do with the fact that he feels secure in life and he’s just able to go out there and leave it all out there on the court and give absolutely everything, every single point. Not a lot of athletes can do that.”

5) Hard work

According to Rafael Nadal, there aren’t any “secrets” to this success.

Speaking to India Today, Nadal emphasized two key things that contributed to his success – work hard and have the right people around you.

“When I was a kid, I just dreamt about playing at Roland Garros, at Wimbledon, professional tournaments. I am no different than many kids. My motivation and passion to try to reach that dream was the key to our success. We worked hard with motivation. Kids can do it, if I did it,”

“The only thing I can advise is that try to have right people around you, who know about the sport, who really support you and try to help you reach your best level, practice every day with motivation and passion.”

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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