This past weekend I was fortunate to have the most fabulous homestay. The family set me up in basement bedroom of their son who is in college. It was the room of an athlete. He was a champion swimmer and runner. Medals, certificates, trophies and awards filled his room. It was the perfect setting for success.
The first night I was laying in bed and looked up. Taped to the ceiling, I noticed this:
1:49 – this kid was either one heck of an 800 runner or could put out an even faster 200 free. When I asked his parents about it they confirmed that his event was the 200 free. I asked if he ever broke 1:49. Turns out he did even better than that - by the end of the year he went 1:47.
So demonstrates the power of seeing something to believe it. Of putting it out there to possibly make it happen. First you have to open yourself up to the possibility then do the hard work. Trust me, the work is nothing if first you don’t believe. It sounds so cliché – to see it is to be it. To achieve it you got to believe it. Reminds me of going to church with my grandmother in Brooklyn when I was young. For whatever reason they sold lottery tickets in the vestibule. There are so many ways that was wrong – but then again, it was not your typical church. It was church in Brooklyn. There is a difference. A man selling the tickets would shout “you gotta be in it to win it.” He was always right. You did have to buy a ticket to win it but I’ll never forget him saying that – it was a good attitude for life. Or achieving any goal.
You’ve got to believe it but it’s also got to be in front of you every single day. Not like you sit down in January think about it for 5 minutes then arrive 8 months later. It has to be a little more tangible. I read an article about Michael Phelps. In it he described how he posts his goals by his alarm clock so he has to look at them every single day – whether or not he wants to. Why wouldn’t you want to look at your goals? Well, maybe you’re tired or dragging on a particular day. But if you want to reach the goals you know you have to push through and stay on track. Push aside the distractions and focus at the start of each day. Know that the choices you make throughout the day should be directed towards reaching your goal. You can’t be half in with a goal – you’ve got to go all the way.
I don’t have to tell you how impressed I was that a 17 year old already got that. Most kids can barely figure out how to do homework let alone achieve a sports specific goal. Especially today with so many other distractions out there. Perhaps it was good parenting or really hungry passion inside. Whatever it was, this kid clearly got the achievers gene. The one that makes you want more, strives to always be excellent, pushes you to keep reinventing what is your best.
Hoping his success would rub off on me, I spent as much time as possible sitting in that room. Relaxing on Saturday, I noticed a book on his shelf about becoming an Olympian. Inside the front cover, one of the Olympians had autographed the book along with the words why not? And I thought to myself that I couldn’t have read two words more powerful. Why not. Something we should ask ourselves more often. I find athletes are comfortable asking why of themselves – why should I be able to run fast, why should I think I can do that, why should I be the winner today and not comfortable enough with asking themselves – well, why not?
I spent some time reading through the book. It was filled with stories about different Olympians. Of all the stories and quotes in the book, this one really connected:
What do achievers share in common? An underlying faith in the eventual positive outcome and an unwillingness to give up.
I want to be an achiever. I always have been. I set goals and work hard to achieve them. I remember sitting at the piano in high school, practicing for a competition when my stepdad stood by my side and said “Elizabeth, always be excellent.” Best advice I ever got. That was always my goal – to achieve, to be excellent. So when I can’t get to excellence it is very frustrating.
That brings me to this past season. I had many ups and downs. At times training seemed more like work than anything else. I had lost my fire for it all. This was very frustrating to me because I have always felt completely energized and driven to achieve. Or, to train and compete. Rightfully so, all summer my mind struggled with the fact that my body would not cooperate. It felt like I was stuck in a hole. Failure in workouts from built up fatigue only made that worse. I had less than 10 workouts this summer that I would call a success. And when you are doing 2 workouts a day – that’s not much. Failure plus fatigue and all of a sudden you find yourself overwhelmed and ready to give up. In fact, giving up became the easiest thing to do.
These past few weeks I have come full circle. I abandoned an approach that just wasn’t a good fit for me and returned to what I knew worked as evidenced by patterns over time. As I came out of the hole I started having better workouts again. Better as in – productive, could hit paces, could achieve heart rate zones. When you are physically better your head feels better too. I would start to work hard and actually see my body respond. And as my body responded the more rewarding the whole experience became. I became myself again.
The one thing I noticed, though, is how even when the workout got hard recently – like pushing a sub 6 minute per mile pace at the end of a long run kind of hard – I welcomed the challenged and the pain. I didn’t want to give up. A few weeks ago I would have just given up because I couldn’t face the failure yet again. I realize now that when you find yourself giving up that signals a problem. Achievers do not give up. Achievers cannot even get close to the idea of giving up – it’s too repulsive to them. When an achiever finds giving up an attractive option, something is wrong. Inside I knew something was wrong and that was so frustrating and painful to me.
When I looked up at the ceiling this weekend, I realized I had found myself again. I completely connected to that piece of paper and felt like an athlete again. That simple piece of paper was like peeking into someone’s diary where they admit their boldest dreams and insecurities. And I “got it”. So much that it made me want to achieve again. I felt the spirit and the achiever in me came back to life. I wanted to write my goals on a piece of looseleaf and tape it to my ceiling. Like that young man, I’ve been that hungry before. I could relate.
We’ve all got our 1:49 dreams out there. No matter where you have been this season, what went right or wrong, you can still get there. A lot of crap happens along the way – crashes, sickness, you get the point. It’s never too late though to write down your goals again. That’s where I’m sitting at now. It’s at the corner of possibility and success. And though the season is almost over it’s never looked so bright. There will be many more ups and downs but I know that possibility and success will meet one day. I’m opening myself up to it. Taping it on my wall. I’ll get there. We'll arrive.