The only thing more annoying then a swimmer who complains mercilessly about homework, hard sets and reality television is the unfettered optimist.
You know this person.
They bounce around, fake smile plastered across their face, smiling away in denial of the realities of the world. Everything is “sooo.”
“That is soooo the best. This set is soooo awesome guys, let’s go! We gonna swim soooo fast this weekend! Thank you sooo much.”
This forced, bubblegum cheeriness, while at its foundation comes from a good place, tends to elicit the opposite from its intended reaction. Instead of provoking happiness or optimism from others, it evokes a measured rage.
What I want to talk about is not an emotion. It’s not about being “happy” which in itself is a very subjective thing. What we are going to talk about is optimism. While there may be some overlapping areas between happiness and optimism, there is a distinct difference between the two.
Having optimism means that you view your life as full of possibility and opportunity. It’s something we can help dictate. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling, something that kind of comes and goes, and that is also a by-product of being optimistic.
Here are 7 ways to be more optimistic with your swimming–
1. Decide to Become the Best Version of Yourself.
It’s fairly easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other swimmers. This is a competitive sport, after all, where your results are measured and dictated by the performance of others. Using the competition as a barometer for how you feel about yourself means that you lose the initiative, giving up control over how you feel. If you are going to start comparing, do so against earlier versions of yourself instead. Strive to improve on what you can control, instead of judging yourself based on the performance of others.
2. Steer Clear of Debbie Downers.
We all have these people in our lives. They complain, nag, whine. Nothing is good enough when things are going well, and it’s a zombie apocalypse when things go awry. It can be particularly difficult to avoid the doom-and-gloom types when they are in your lane every day, or in your circle of friends, or in your home. The affiliations and relationships you have should build and nurture your development, not impair it with excessive negativity. Your swimming – and let’s face it, life as well – is exceedingly too short to spend with negative people.
3. Small Victories.
The allure of the big, awesome goal at the end of the tunnel is hard to resist. But with great distance comes great anxiety as well, as the realization of how much work remains to get there can become overwhelming. Combat this by achieving a sequence of small goals. Get into the habit of setting one goal per workout. Pick one thing to excessively focus on. Doing this will develop your goal setting muscles to the point that when you decide on a goal, the execution of it will be habit. And not only that, but the string of small, tiny successes will help you fuel your confidence and motivation for the bigger journey.
4. Be proactive in creating a positive environment.
I swam with a kid who really didn’t seem to enjoy the sport. This was particularly evident in the harder sets of the session, where between repeats he would grumble and curse under his breath about the set, about coach, about the lifeguard, the pool temperature… and so on. When he got particularly sour, I would distract him by telling him a funny story, make fart noises to interrupt his complaining, or I would engage him in a trade of movie quotes. After each repeat, we would have to each think of a movie quote, and the other would have to name the movie. What I didn’t know I was doing at the time was deflecting his grumpiness, and helping to create a more positive environment for myself, for Mr. Negato, and the other swimmers in our lane. Helping to create a positive environment doesn’t mean you have to overly peppy, or excessively “Rah rah, let’s go guys, this one’s for the Gipper!” Something as simple as a well timed joke, or the movie quote game, can help create a more pleasant environment.
5. Bounce Back Constructively.
No matter how much positivity we force upon ourselves, things will still fall apart on occasion. Whether its getting DQ’d at a big meet, an awful swim, or an injury, life has an uncanny ability to whip a curveball at us just when we think we have things figured out. In the aftermath of these setbacks, avoid the finger-pointing, the self-blame, and latching on to the worst aspects of the situation. Instead, search for the silver linings and immediately make a plan to move forward. Dwelling on setbacks and endlessly analyzing them won’t alter the result.
6. Remember that your fears are exaggerated (and almost always wrong).
Our brain has our best intentions in mind. Really, it does. It wants to avoid you pain, embarrassment, humiliation. But sometimes it can get a little too overly Big Brother on us. Unchecked we allow the fear of being embarrassed or blamed to become stronger than the desire to get credit or recognition. This is sucky, for obvious reasons. If we are all too caught up in our mistakes, we are robbed of the conviction to chase success. When pessimism and fear rises up, think back to the last time you imagined the worst possible outcome. Did it come to fruition? (Probably not.) And if it did, was it decimating? (Again, probably not.)
7. Recognize Your Awesomeness.
Whether you realize it or not, or whether you want to admit it or not, you are epically good at some stuff. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. (I’ll wait.) Now write out 5 things that you, and only you, are friggin’ awesome at. Seriously. Don’t play them down, or be overly modest. You have skillz, and it’s important to recognize them. An easy way to get back into an optimistic frame of mind is to create this list, and then figure out ways to build on them. You have a great butterfly kick? How can you make it even better?