This year’s Masters golf tournament winner, Bubba Watson, hasn’t had golf lessons since he was 10 years old, according to an April 9, 2012 ESPN Golf online news article entitled “Bubba Watson wins Masters.” Yet the originator of “Bubba golf” still manages to be regarded by his pro circuit peers as one of the game’s most creative shot-making wizards. And now he has the hardware, prize money, and green jacket to show for it by winning golf’s most prestigious tournament, powered by a jaw dropping shot from the woods that miraculously held off a late playoff charge by a surging Louis Oosthuizen.
Meanwhile, on the opposite pole of the sports spectrum (opposite because golf is best in warm weather while skiing is best in the cold), 2010 Olympic women’s skiing champion Lindsey Vonn posted the most dominant overall performance of her storied career despite facing major turbulence in her personal life at the same time. This according to an April 8, 2012 New York Times article entitled “For Lindsey Vonn, Professional Triumph and Personal Turmoil.”
Although their life circumstances and their sports differ dramatically from each other, both of these champions have pulled off mind-blowing victories on the largest stages against top competition because of a single quality that’s necessary for success in any area of life. That vital core quality is what I call “passionate inner drive,” which is really nothing more than self-generated love for doing a particular thing.
While neither champ used the passionate inner drive phrase in their explanations of what propelled them, what they did say attributed their success to it nonetheless. Vonn, for example, told reporters, “I realized for the first time in my life I was skiing for myself. I had always had a lot of people helping me — my dad when I was younger, then Thomas (her estranged husband, manager and coach), and my sponsors. And sometimes, I think I skied for those other people.
“This year, I realized that I’m the only one in the start gate and I’m the only one deciding what line to ski and how fast. That was really empowering. It was kind of like being a kid again, skiing for yourself and having fun with it.”
Meanwhile, for Watson, this self-driven way of approaching his golfing is nothing new. In fact, the only news for him is that it has finally propelled him to victory in the world’s greatest golf tournament. 
During his post-Masters press conference, Watson explained, "I don't play the sport for fame. I don't try to win tournaments for fame," Watson said. "I don't do any of that. It's just me. I'm just Bubba. I goof around. I joke around. I just want to be me and play golf."
I’m sure that by now you can clearly see the amazing power of passionate inner drive to take you to new heights in your own sports career. Obviously, pro athletes everywhere represent the best of the best in their sports, and consistently dominating other pros doesn’t happen often. Therefore, the key to being consistently great must reside somewhere beyond superior athleticism alone. There must be someplace else to find the highest level of excellence. Someplace so subtle that it’s easily and often overlooked, even by many physically talented pros.
My point here is that if you’ve gotten caught up in any of the social and financial snares that can always be found hovering around and distracting celebrated elite athletes, your best move is to return to your mental roots, as Watson and Vonn have. Those roots are embodied in the old anonymous advice, “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Those roots are your own passionate inner drive, which will rejuvenate you both personally and professionally to an unimaginably self-satisfying degree. 
Remember when you were much younger? Then you played sports simply because you loved doing it, for whatever combination of reasons you loved it. However, as you moved up the competitive ladder, more outside pressures, such as strict NCAA rules and perhaps financial incentives to turn pro early, started pulling at you. And after turning pro, those pressures and more have multiplied and intensified.
Through all of that, however, it was your passionate inner drive that propelled you forward against steep odds. That same feeling still remains inside of you, silently waiting for you to return to the simplicity that made your life work well. And all that’s needed is for you to embrace it again and restore it to its rightful place as the dominant force behind your most important decisions and actions. 
So if you’re truly serious about pursuing excellence in your life now or at any time, it’s time to reassign passionate inner drive as a starter in your game and rewrite its contract to make it your franchise player. Simply by making that seemingly small mental shift, even if you don’t ever win a pro sports championship, you’ll surely win at life during and after your playing days!            

Dr. Timothy Thompson is the VP of Educational Programs at Access Athletes. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dr. Tim a question or comment.