Here at TS, we like to consider ourselves as pretty positive people – it’s part of our charm. We implore our athletes to choose a positive attitude and we lead by example.
We are also human.
Which means we are’t positive ALL the time – sometimes stuff happens and we lose our proverbial. I am sure you can all relate. It’s part of the fun of being who we are.
We aren’t deliberately positive just because we want others to be (although that is a very good reason), we project this because we understand how important and beneficial adopting a positive attitude is to performing at your best (not to mention being happy in life).
But. We are also realists.
We know that athletes aren’t always going to be super happy positive people with rose coloured glasses and never-ending optimism. Sometimes stuff happens that affects us in a negative way.
You lose a race, or your don’t execute like you think should have, or you get sick, or injured, or work is getting in the way of training, or training in the way of work…The list of potentials here is endless – some are controlled directly by our own actions, and some not so much.
So why even worry about them? Why not just close your mind off from negative experiences altogether and deny their existence.
Because you can learn from them that’s why.
In fact you need to learn from them not only to help improve your performance, but you also need the bad stuff to help you appreciate the really good stuff.
You need to fail.
Failing teaches you stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t have known, and you can apply that new knowledge again and again to gain progress.
Failing is a part of the realities of racing. You are not always going to have a perfect situation handed to you on a silver platter. Things go wrong, and yes you absolutely need to remain resilient when this happens. It’s how you learn from these failures that makes you a better athlete.
Remember Chris McCormack? For years he was regarded as someone who just couldn’t win Kona. He failed – sometimes spectacularly. But he took lessons from those failures and he sought answers. We all know how that worked out. There’s no way Chris would have won Kona if he simply caved in to his negative attitude.
Things are much worse in bad situations if you kick the ground, play the victim and only see negatives . You need an open mindset here, you need to ask what the lessons are here, so you can be proactive to keep you moving forward, avoiding the quicksand of deflated expectations (and ego).
Setbacks are valuable lessons.
Imagine if only good things ever happened?
I would think that a lot of Instagram and Twitter feeds would be empty; void of hallmark styled motivational quotes each day because people no longer required inspiration.
The fact is we have become so desensitised to these positive projections that we have either stopped believing in their efficacy or we simply don’t care.
From a coaches point of view this is a problem because we encourage our athletes to believe in themselves in the same way that we believe in them. And when they truly believe in themselves, they learn more about their capabilities and strive to push forward through tough times – and we know that awesome things are going to happen.
But when society as a whole is inundated with non-stop round the clock motivational quotes that are meant to inspire, we lose the importance of those messages – the meaning is blurred in elegant fonts, and recycled pictures. While we can get inspired from words … true inspiration comes from seeing what others have made possible and then actioning best practice in our own lives.
A problem we see with just focusing on the inspirational quotes is that it alludes to the thinking we just need to focus on the words and everything will be easier.
It’s a huge disconnect from the realties of competing in something of magnitude, like an Ironman for instance. It creates the thought process that everything is easy – you just have to think positive. Sure, you do have to adopt a positive approach – no professional in any arena goes into battle and wins with a negative attitude.
But you have to be realistic about how much ‘work’ it’s going to take.
Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in the end result that you forget you need to tick a lot of boxes along the way, and that the reality of ticking those boxes effectively, takes enormous commitment, hard work and can sometimes be quite harsh.
You cannot complete a training session on positive thinking alone. You still have to get out there and do the work.
Yes racing an Ironman to your expectations is achievable. But there’s a fine line between creating a positive atmosphere that fuels an athlete with drive and determination to roll the sleeves up further, and one that is simply false hopes or unrealistic expectations of the requirements to reach there goal.
Getting to Kona is hard. I know this because I am (still) trying. Breaking an hour barrier is hard – most of you know that too. Whatever your goal is, its going to be hard. Otherwise it’s not really a goal is it?
You need a little pain to get there. That scares a lot of people. Good! It either scares you into action or it scares you so overwhelmingly that you do nothing.
You need some setbacks, failures and roadblocks. They help not only build your resilience but they remind you that things aren’t just handed out on platters.
You have to work hard to get them (whatever they may be) and at times, you will stumble. Your positive outlook will help to keep these stumbles from becoming permanent fetal positions; your mindset enables you to get back up and keep punching on.
So I encourage you to be open-minded about your challenges. Take them on, knowing that it wont always be smooth sailing. But fortify yourself with realistic expectations and your challenges will not seem that bad.
Be positive. Be realistic.