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You want to be successful in this sport. We all do. So if I asked you what your goals are, I would assume that the vast majority would be “I want to qualify for X next year’ or ‘I want to break X hours in my next race’.
These are appropriate answers to the question. But I believe we are asking the wrong questions.
For success does not ultimately lie in the ‘what do we want to achieve and how quickly can we achieve this’ sphere. Ultimate success, I believe, requires the opposite of these questions being asked. That is:
You go deep into your self and find the answers to those questions, then success becomes a whole lot easier…that is, if you have the right answers.
The Level of Sacrifice
Everyone loves a great view at the top of a mountain. I am currently writing this blog at the foothills of the Switz Alps, so it is hard not to be inspired. The top of a mountain is a great analogy for ‘success’. When you have ‘made it’. The views are breathtaking. Everyone enjoys this. But what does it take to actually get to the top of that mountain? Do you actually desire that? The sacrifice, the hard work, the very early mornings, the opportunity cost of your time and money – this constitutes the ‘climbing up the mountain’.
A lot of us have mountainous dreams. It is a mile high climb though and unfortunately a lot of people don't like to climb much - they just like to imagine the summit.
The sacrifice and preparation is what drives successful people, not the actual goal itself. Too many people want the ultimate success in this sport, the end game. Whatever that means for them. I guess this means to break a certain time, or qualify to race or win a world championship or even turn professional and have a successful triathlon career. But far few people actually yearn for the journey. For the sacrifice for the day in day out struggle that we face.
Accept that quality long term results require quality long term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.
So the first part of the question that needs to be asked is not what is your end game goal, but what is the level of sacrifice are you truly willing to endure. Because I guarantee, you revel and embrace the sacrifice, the journey – then the so called ‘end game’ will take care of itself. In fact, the end game quickly becomes obsolete as you realise that the objective and the most satisfying part of the entire journey has been the climb, not the view at the top.
The Duration of the Sacrifice
The second part of the question is about how long you are willing to endure. This is equally about your actual development/improvement as a triathlete as well as the sacrifice to achieve such improvement.
"So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act" - Dr Seuess
You know when life is singing. When all the balls in the air, (be it family, work, relationships and of course the sport) are being managed with great balance. It is not an easy prospect and unfortunately the way many of us are wired we push the boundaries of everything. So the first sign of having the balance sorted, we inadvertently think…”how could we get more out of the day/week/month” often to the detriment of what was a perfect balance of balls in the air.
Longevity in this sport is key. If there is one tip that all very successful age group and professional athletes go to is “consistency”. And you cant have consistency without sustainability.
The environment that we live in today is one of ‘now’. If we don’t know an answer to something, we are literally 15 seconds away from knowing it. If we want to chat to friends we can do that instantly, regardless of where we are in the world or what we are doing.
While these things are wonderful, it brings frustrations to the concept of sustainable growth. Long term improvement in this sport (and really, ourselves as individuals) is not something that can be googled or downloaded. It takes time, effort, sacrifice and dedication. But most importantly, the improvement or growth must be sustainable.
Will there be hang ups and bang ups? (Thanks Dr Seuss) Of course. It will all not be smooth climbing on the ascent to the mountain top. Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single person has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.
You want ultimate success in this sport? After working out the level of sacrifice you are wanting to endure, the only other question you should be asking is how long are you willing to endure?
I truly believe that anything is achievable in this sport. My progression from an unfit pudgy teenager is a testament to that. It requires far more ‘endurance’ than skill. But to reach your best and for you to live your potential, you need to be very clear about your drive. It should no longer be “what are your goals and how soon can you achieve them” but instead “how much are you willing to endure and how long for.” Because, I guarantee that if you are willing to endure more and for longer than everyone, anything becomes achievable. Anything.
Train safe, stay the course and remember that to obtain better answers you must ask better questions.