Swimmers: Forget Being Perfect, Focus on Being Awesome.

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

Setting your standards and expectations high is important. It’s what motivates us to train our butts off for hours on end, pulls us out of bed at 5am, and it’s what helps make the sacrifices we make for the sport and our goals easier to bare.

But for some swimmers, the bar is set too high. So high in fact, that it is completely unattainable. These athletes seek and train only for perfection. In pursuit of perfection they view anything that doesn’t measure up to their vision of success as a catastrophic failure.

It’s not hard to see why some swimmers would feel this way.

The atmosphere of today’s culture promotes perfection. Photoshopped models, advertisements of all sorts that promote an affluent and effortlessly perfect life. Even on social media lives and newsfeeds are brimming with polished stories about how wonderful their lives are. Surrounded by all of this well-manicured perfection it can be easy to be lulled into believing that we must be perfect as well.

Instead of chasing for the ideal of perfection in your training and racing, as a swimmer you should focus on pursuing excellence.

Here is why:

1. Perfectionists invest themselves completely in the outcome.

Perfectionists value themselves in terms of results. Their self-worth is entirely dependent on achievement. The result is all that matters. Not the process, not enjoying the journey, not the lessons learned, just the time and place on the scoreboard.

With all of their self-esteem invested into the anticipation of a heavily idolized result, there is no way that the perfectionist swimmer will get out of the pool not disappointed.

By chasing excellence we allow ourselves to be open to the friction and inherently bumpy nature that is improving in the pool. We embrace the process, and value it for far more as just the things we do that get us to the outcome.

2. Perfectionists miss out on the benefits of making mistakes.

Your classic perfectionist takes setbacks and failures hard. They view any setback or detour as an iron-clad judgement on their character and abilities in the pool. And for most, it is almost impossible to bounce back, and even if they do, it takes them a while for their ego to get around it.

Instead, welcome the times you come up short. Doing so opens you to the critical lessons that arise from such occasions, and with that knowledge in hand you will be able to accelerate forwards faster than if you took the failure personally and refused to acknowledge it.

3. Perfectionism is paralyzing.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

When perfectionism seeps into our process – into the way we expect to train – than it can become especially paralyzing. We over-analyze everything about our training environment, finding fault in any number of areas, and then cite those perceived shortcomings as a legitimate grounds for not acting.

By chasing excellence you are willing to make the most of what you have at your disposal. Pool is super crowded? Vertical kicking it is. Sprained wrist? Hello, stationary bike.

Remember: There will always be more reasons to not do something. It’s up to you to ruthlessly find what you can do.

4. Perfectionism makes you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

Perfectionists live with the perpetual, gnawing feeling that they haven’t achieved anything worthwhile with their swimming. They view the work they have done to date to be somehow insufficient, unworthy of praise or recognition as long as that perfect outcome hasn’t been crossed off the to-do list.

One of the ways to cut this infinite loop is to make periodic assessments of your progress.

Appreciate what you have achieved so far with your swimming. Bask in the successes, and recognize all that you have done to bring you to where you are today. No matter what the result was it is important to value the work you have put forth to get you to where you are.

About YourSwimBook

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.

NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.

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Dr Richard Norris
7 years ago

As a reformed perfectionist, I can relate to all this. I spent years focusing on being perfect that my life was miserable. It took time and effort but now I enjoy the journey and small improvements. Perfection expects an all-or-none approach and result – totally unrealistic. Reality will always ensure there is room for improvement.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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