It does not matter what your goal in this sport is. What matters is how you go about achieving it.
If it is a real goal then it is probably going to be pretty lofty; something that is (almost) unreachable, yet scares you enough to want to make a jump for it.
If not then it is probably not a real goal. That doesn’t change the importance of that desire, it just means that it becomes a step to something greater.
Everything about triathlon – media, coaching tactics, social presence – is built around the idea of SUCCESS. To be successful you have to be this….or that…..
All that you see read and hear is driven towards making you a successful athlete.
I don’t like that. I don’t think that the idea of success can be whittled down to encompass everything for everyone. Success is highly personal and relative to the Real Goal. Take a look at athletes like Greg Bennet and Belinda Granger. They have not won Kona, yet they are regarded as some of the most successful athletes in the sport.
Winning that World Championship, or not wining it, does not make you successful (it does of course if that was your Real Goal – like the many who have stood upon that top spot).
Success is a moment.
So to be a successful Age Group athlete might not mean that you race Kona, or even attempt to. Yes, it is regarded as a World Championship race and deserves enormous respect for it’s history and harsh dealings to athletes. But if you don’t make it to Kona, are you therefor NOT a successful athlete?
Your moment is your moment.
What makes you a successful athlete is how you endeavour to master your ability in this sport. Rather than pursuing the taste of success or what others perceive as success, we should be looking to develop a sense of mastery within our ability of the sport.
It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are – what matters is how you approach the desire to become a better athlete.
That should be your focus. Even if your ‘moment’ is to just get through your first Ironman event, or Challenge race. Your goal should ultimately be to become the BEST athlete that you can be.
Mastery is a fine skill to develop. You don’t just pick up a kitchen knife and become a Michelin Star Chef. Nor do you jump on the bike and instantly turn into a Pro tour rider. Mastering anything is something that requires time, patience and persistence.
You also need the passion. Do not forget that. Because if you lack the passion – that burning desire – for your Real Goal, then you will struggle to push through the hard times to get there, instead opting out for an easier solution.
Becoming a Master, in your world, in this sport, means dialling in the fundamentals. It means spending time appreciating the importance of nutrition and hydration. It means taking the utmost care of your body before during and after training. It means refining your intuitive process’s. It means becoming more self aware of who who you are as an athlete and how you respond to different environments.
Mastery means looking for the small wins, or near-wins. These are incredibly valuable tools. That Real Goal is going to fill you with desire and help get you going when the easy option presents itself. Small wins and near-wins are going to make sure that you stay focused along the way and avoid the pitfalls of mediocrity.
Near wins can be found in the daily.
Every day that you train, you are presented with an opportunity to seek and obtain small victories. These might look like edging just 1 second from your 100m pool splits, or even something as simple as finishing a hard trail run feeling as though you had more to give. It could even mean just getting out of bed to train after being sick.
A small win can be as simple as completing a session with absolute exactitude – if you can complete just one session with precision, then you have a platform to build from for future sessions.
Small wins matter. They matter most when you start accumulating them, but it is as easy as starting with just one. Just one.
Small wins show you that you are improving. They build your confidence. Each small win that you can find can be harvested together to build the confidence that it takes to make that jump towards your Real Goal. If you were to draw a graph of your near wins, it would plot an upwards trending line, as each small win provides the confidence to seek the next small win, and the next one after that.
With repetition, small wins become the foundations of your mastery; your constant pursuit to be better – regardless of how near or far your ‘moment’ is. You can even break down your mastery further – into smaller section: become a master of managing your pace in the run. Become a master of racing on ‘feel’. become a master of getting up 10 minutes earlier each day to allow time to prepare the body for training.
John Maclean doesn’t get out of bed each day and say “Right, today is the day that I run a marathon”. Each day that John gets out of bed, he looks for small wins that will enable him to master walking. And then running. And then a marathon. He knows that every small win – regardless of how minuscule it may seem, or difficult it may be – will take him further towards his real goal. Patience. Persistence. Passion.
John knows that not every step he takes will be ‘perfect’. But he does know that each step he attempts will lead to another step, and that if he can repeat this process further, the he has started to walk. John knows how important that little victory is, and how important this process is to mastering his ability to do more.
Mastery is a mindset. It isn’t necessarily about you being better than anyone else. Mastery is about you and your pursuit. It isn’t defined by reaching success – it is defined by your endeavour to close the gap between where you are now, and where you want to be.
Every session you log – good, bad or ugly – gives you perspective of where you are at. The knowledge gained form those small wins enables you to build momentum. That trail run gets esker and easier each time. Your splits start to drop. You feel better. The momentum that you gain from the little victories will inevitably take you to your moment.
Take pleasure in the mastery of your craft.