Part of what made qualifying for the Olympic Trials so special to me was the transformations I experienced throughout that training cycle, on both a physical and emotional level. When I made the decision to “go all in” and focus solely on training, I had a moment of terror: what if I didn’t reach my goals and ultimately failed? Here are some of the important lessons I learned along the way that helped me overcome my fears.
Goals Sometimes Hold us Back
The statement above may seem counterintuitive, but the sentiment is true. How often are we so focused on a goal that we fail to recognize improvement? For instance, during my second attempt at qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I ran a PR on a much tougher course than where my previous PR had been achieved (but was still a few minutes away from the time I needed). Instead of celebrating all the positives that day, I beat myself up for not achieving what I set out to accomplish. Negativity due an arbitrary goal serves no useful purpose.
Failing Doesn’t Make you a Failure
This quote is a favorite of mine from Lauren Fleshman. All too often we associate our personal worth with whether or not we achieve our ultimate goals. A tangible example is the Olympics. Every athlete who competes has the goal of winning a gold medal. However, only one athlete in each event will earn that honor. Would you call a non-medal winning Olympian a failure?
Focus on the Process
Instead of being overly concerned about the outcome, focus on the process instead. Find joy in the journey. All too often, we only consider our training to have been successful if we achieved our main goal. However, this type of thinking is detrimental. Instead, if you do not reach your goal, use it as an opportunity to reflect on what worked, and what didn’t. Ultimately, it is important to remember that while success is not linear, work is certainly cumulative.
Identify the System and Control the Controllables
Often times we become so focused on what we can’t control – the outcome of the race – that we ignore a major component we can control: our training. Although our goals help motivate us to work hard every day, they become counterproductive when we lose sight of the necessary building blocks. If you trained your best, would you see results? Of course you would. On the contrary, if you stressed about a future performance, would it change the outcome?
What Happens if You Don’t Reach a Goal?
How can you get past the pain of a missed goal? The secret is to decide beforehand that you are bigger than your goals. This is not to be confused with deciding ahead of time that you are free to slack off or not give the race 100%; rather, that your self-worth is not tied to an outcome. When you go into a race understanding that you will either achieve your aims or learn from the experience, you cannot lose.
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