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Triathlete Blog

What It Takes

By February 8, 2007June 3rd, 2015No Comments

The other day, an athlete approached me and asked about success. He read about a goal I had achieved and wondered how I did it, how I made it happen. I thought for a moment, and responded with – “a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot in my head.”

Reaching your goals and achieving success involves a lot of hard work. But it’s not just the work in your arms and legs. It’s the work you do in your head that makes the hard workouts really count. This is the difference between those that breakthrough and those that breakdown. You have to know what to do in your head to reach a body-involved goal.

Many of us search for ways to boost our physical fitness without giving our head the same kick in the ass. You can’t expect to dig deep and pull through if you’ve never done it in training. You can’t expect to go faster or harder in a race if you’ve never been there before. You have to get there in training, you have to push yourself. And the only way to push yourself is to talk yourself into it.

Here’s how to kick through the mental roadblocks that might be getting in the way of your goals. This is the kick in the head that all of us need from time to time. Get your boots out and get ready.

There is no substitute for commitment

Above anything else, first and foremost you must make a commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as in between. You can’t be committed to your goals on sunny days and against them when it’s cold. You can’t expect to achieve your goals at 100 percent with 50 percent of the effort. You either want something or you don’t. If you don’t want it, then abandon it and shoot for something that you truly have passion for. If there is lack of commitment in your mind, your body will never know what to do. But if you do want it, then go at it full force. Put yourself entirely into it, make the commitment, and don’t stop until it happens.

You still have to do the hard work

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the sport for 1 year or 10 years – you still have to do the work. Time in the sport doesn’t mean less time in training. And as you get better, you have to work harder because the amount of improvement possible becomes smaller and smaller. You end up working 10 times as hard for 10 seconds. If you’ve reached a plateau, it’s time to reassess if you are really doing the hard work. Are you giving up just shy of it, or stopping just before you’re done? Redefine your idea of ‘hard’ and see where that takes you. Take it up a notch. The harder you work now, the harder it is to surrender when it counts.

There is no shortcut to success

You can’t skip the hard workouts and nail the easy ones and still expect to succeed. If success was easy, then everyone would be winning. It’s not easy, so don’t expect success to come to you if you’ve taken shortcuts or given up on yourself. You have to go at it full speed ahead. You have to have tunnel vision and follow the path to succeed. Understand that the path to success involves sacrifice, commitment and pain. Don’t expect anything less, and don’t believe anyone that says they didn’t sacrifice or hurt to reach their goals.

Get out of your own way

Get over yourself and get out of your own way. Stand there for a moment and consider all of your excuses, yor supposed shortcomings, your reasons for why you did not succeed. Now stand there and raise a middle finger at yourself. Get over yourself. Stop making excuses for why you didn’t succeed and start expecting more out of yourself. Get yourself to that point in the workout where you step aside yourself and have that conversation where one part wants to give up and the other part wants to keep going. Raise your middle finger at the other half and keep going. Successful competitors never give up. Successful competitors truly want to win and will allow nothing to get in their way in order to get there.

Give yourself permission to win

Part of getting out of your own way is giving yourself permission to win, whatever your idea of winning is. You must see yourself as a success. And your definition of success or winning will change each day with each workout. For some workouts, a win is to just finish. For other workouts, winning is to hit a certain time or distance. Think through each workout, formulate a goal, and give yourself permission to reach that goal.

Be honest with yourself

Be honest with yourself. Admit your weaknesses and commit to learning how to improve. What’s tough is to go out and work hard on the things you know you don’t do very well. Anyone can work on what they’re good at – that’s easy, it feels good, it pays off big. But give yourself a bigger payoff – build your weaknesses until they become your strengths. You can only getter better by first admitting that you are not the best at something. Give yourself room to improve.

It has to come from within

Success in entirely within your control. And your desire for success has to come from within. You have to want it – not your coach, not anyone else. It has to be your goal and you must take complete ownership of it. Do it because you want to do it for you. If you find yourself fretting about numbers or focusing on the competition, do this – write down the names of the competition or the numbers you’re perseverating about. Now light that sheet on fire. Let it burn, let it go. Now write down the word YOU. Stick it on your mirror and look at it every single day to remind yourself that you are in control of you and what you want has to come from within.

A failure is only a failure if you fail to learn something from it

Let go of the idea that a failure is a waste of time. If you do not reach your goal you have to look inside of yourself and assess why. To skip this is to circumvent the powerful learning opportunity that one can find in failure. Failures teach us where we need to go next time and careful consideration of our failure reveals how to get there. If you are truly in touch with yourself, connected to a course or workout, you will see where things went wrong or what held you back. I have never walked away from a failure without 5 new goals to work towards and the fire lit beneath them.

Let go of your fear

You have two choices – to play it safe to be good or take a chance to be great. Let go of your fear, go out and attack it instead. Take it for a ride, beat it on a run. Let it run right behind you but never to catch you. True victories come from taking risks. When we let fear control us, we play safe, we play scared, we play small. You must be unafraid of taking big risks in order to achieve big things.

Success is a process, not a product

Success is a long, gradual process in which you will progress along the way. Performance improves when you surrender to this process with patience, trust, and belief in each part of process. Once you reach your goal, you will find something else you want to work towards. As such, success is a continual process that you will keep reinventing for yourself. Keep this process alive by shooting for goals that you truly believe in, that you truly want – for yourself and from yourself.

Success is always within your control. You define who you are and what you can be. Visualize yourself as a limitless success and set your mind up to support this thought every step of the way. Again, achieving success is not easy. It’s going to involve some ugly truths and some painful realizations. It’s going to involve being honest with yourself and then committing, surrendering to the process. So put the white flag up, let go of your fears, get out of your own way and step off on to the long, hard path to get there. It’s worth it. Trust me.