We all have things we want to do with our swimming. They are what we dream about when we should be paying attention in class and what plays in our minds as we lob off to sleep at night. For some these ambitions are to be world-class, for others they can be as modest as making a JV relay team.
The first step lies in having the big, awesome goal. Of putting words to that dream, of making it specific, measurable, and affixed with a deadline. This part is fun, relatively risk-free, and is straightforward. Where most swimmers struggle is with what comes next.
Goals are for planning, the process is for results.
The achievement of said goal, of attaining the success you want from your swimming comes not from an event, or a single swim, or a time, but rather, from the process. It’s the daily grind, the repeated 1% improvements, the habits gleaned from showing up and putting in quality effort on a daily basis.
We tend to categorize how swimmers do by the results they achieve in competition. And fair enough – swimming provides an objective manner with which to rank and sort athletes by time and place. We can look up at the scoreboard and know instantly on any given day who the fastest swimmer is.
In doing so we end up viewing our champions through the lens of their results, and imagining their path to success was simple, straightforward and without struggle. It wasn’t easy for them, and it won’t be easy for you. It was a struggle and a grind, a path littered with setbacks, happy moments, U-turns, insecurity, successes, confusion, and doubt.
In other words, success isn’t the best time. It’s isn’t the digits on the scoreboard or the medal around their neck. It’s what you did to get there. That’s the hidden legacy that ultimately makes a champion.
1. True satisfaction and success comes in the work; the result is merely a by-product.
In a way, goal setting points to a lack in something. It points out that the you-of-right-now isn’t good enough. That you will be what you want to be, when you achieve what you set out to do. It implies there is a lack in what you are right now.
In a way, deciding on a massive goal also puts an instant burden on you; the moment you write it down your brain whirs to action for better and for worse, figuring out how to achieve it, while also bombarding you with all the concurrent doubts and insecurities that inevitably come when we try to stretch our talents and abilities.
Instead of investing all your hopes and dreams into your hopes and dreams, devote yourself to the day-to-day. Of engaging in the feedback loop of continually making yourself better, while building better habits and consistently showing up is what will lead to true success. Mastering the process is the real win, and is where ultimate satisfaction comes from.
2. Because we can’t always control the result.
Despite our best intentions things don’t always pan out the way we hope or expect them to. No matter how much we plan and dream there are limitations to what we can control. We have no power over how the swimmer in the lane next to us performs, nor can we do much to control unforeseen events like injury (see: Lochte’s knee) or illness.
If your happiness and measure of success is directly tied to a result, than you are putting yourself in a position where you are likely to end up frustrated and disappointed. By letting go of the outcome, and putting your trust in the process – and putting forth your best effort – you can walk away from that season-ending meet with a clear conscious, no matter what the end result is.
3. Focusing on the process means working on things now.
Depending on the time frame of your goals – swimmers have notoriously long seasons – looking across the horizon at your championship meet, and the goals you have for it, can be a little bit deflating. Similarly, it encourages forms of procrastination – “I have so much time between now and then.” The distance between now and the goal removes any urgency to act on your part.
Devoting yourself to the process requires you to focus daily on your swimming, your technique, your nutrition. Sure, dreaming about that goal will give you the occasional jolt of motivation and inspiration to pound out a massive workout once in a while, but it is falling in love with the process that insures you are showing up every day, regardless of how your fleeting heart feels about your season-ending goal in that particular moment.
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.