A version of this post was sent out to the YourSwimBook newsletter list last Wednesday. It is being republished here by popular demand.
While recently surfing the interwebs I stumbled across an article that outlined how to be a harder worker.
It had all the usual rah-rah stuff that you would find in a “10 Ways to be Awesome” type of list that litters the internet (and that I have had regretfully written in my earlier, youthier days on the web).
But there was one point in particular that left me a little annoyed…
It went: “The reward is the result.”
Which, the more I thought about, is ridiculous.
It’s, well… bananas.
(And usually I love bananas.)
Olympic champions can spend 20 years training their butts off for one chance.
Just one moment.
To think that they are miserable and unhappy and crabby the whole time is preposterous.
Of course they are finding value and meaning in what they are doing.
You don’t need to be an Olympic champion or chasing some pool-shattering record in order to get this, or to wield it for your own personal goals.
The results are not the only reward.
You shouldn’t have to slave away in a state of misery day after day to accomplish something.
In fact, if you aren’t finding ways to make the journey rewarding, then really… what’s the point?
Here’s what I mean…
- Making it to early morning workouts is hard, but you do it because the way you feel afterwards is rewarding.
- Doing the those super hard swim practices is tough stuff, but you do it properly because you feel proud of yourself for doing so.
- Spending extra time working on your weaknesses isn’t easy, but you do it anyway because improving at something is motivating.
If you don’t feel like things are that rewarding anymore for you and your swimming, consider writing down what makes you feel good about the sport while you are in the middle of the grind.
The Reward is Found in the Grind
Write down the moments that are super difficult and trying…and the positive stuff that you get from it when you stick with it.
Conventional thinking goes that the end result is the only reward that matters.
(And I unabashedly love baloney, too.)
The reward is…
- In a swim practice well done…
- In a main set where you conquered that interval…
- Doing the whole practice with 10m underwater dolphin kick off every wall.
The reward is in the tiny improvements, those small moments that might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but matter in a big way today.
And will matter when you do it tomorrow…
And then again the next day.
The Perks of Being Focused on the Journey
New doors will open along the way.
We have a very fixed view of what is going to happen when we set a big goal: “I’m going to go to practice, every day, and work by butt off for the rest of the season…”
But what actually happens when we focus on the process and the journey is that a lot of small surprises will happen along the way that we don’t anticipate.
Recognition from one of your idols. A record that you break unexpectedly. Improving a part of your swimming you thought impossible.
The rewards you get along the way are guaranteed.
There is no money-back guarantee on your big, season and career-end goals. No iron-clad promise that you will accomplish what you hope to even if you do everything right along the way.
But those little moments of pride, satisfaction and pleasure that come from working hard each day?
Those are guaranteed. Those you can control. You can’t always completely influence what happens on race day, but you can decide whether or not you work your tail off at practice today.
It’s the grind you will value most.
Sure, the medal will look nice. But a piece of metal, or a record, can’t encapsulate the sacrifice, the work, and the energy spent over months and years.
It is in those moments that you realize that a medal can’t come to represent what you’ve become and what you’ve accomplished through those countless workouts.
It’s the grind that you will cherish most, not the result.
The Accumulation of Small Wins > One Big Win
If you go to practice everyday with an attitude that you are going to compete and push yourself a staggering pile of small wins will develop.
Sure, these little bursts of reward and motivation will never compare to the massive injection of reward and pride that comes with the big, career-end goal…
But if you accumulate those countless little moments where you did it right and did it better, it soon dwarfs that greasy gold medal.
And that big pile of little moments where you were awesome?
Where you worked your butt off?
Where you did the practice even when coach wasn’t looking?
That is the reward.
One more thing…
Something funny and extremely powerful happens when you collect little slivers of awesome consistently over days, weeks, months and years of training…
You become simply extraordinary.
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