How often do you sit back and wonder if your goals in the water will happen? Daily? Hourly?
Every time you dive into the water and come face to face with those slightly moldy pool tiles, how often are ya wondering if the work you are doing today is going to help you become the swimmer you want to be tomorrow?
There’s a lot of baggage that comes with wondering about tomorrow’s goals.
There’s doubt. Imposter syndrome. The uncertainty.
Which can make it really hard to feel focused and motivated to do the things we need to do today.
If only there was a way to know whether or not we will be successful, right?
Well, there kind of is one.
There is no way to say for absolute, 100%, as sure as I-am-going-to-bounce-off-the-lane-ropes-while-swimming backstroke-outdoors certain that you will be successful ahead of time.
It goes without saying that there are no guarantees that today’s hard work will automatically give you the success you want tomorrow.
But there is one big, bright red flag.
It’s a particular moment you likely won’t even notice until some random point down the road, when you look back with a measure of surprise and awe at how far you’ve come.
That moment… the moment you know you are set, when things really start to rock and roll is when you’ve chosen the process and not the goal.
Let’s break that down.
The dream is the easy part.
For a lot of swimmers committing to a big goal entails writing out their goal (important step), getting feedback from their coach on the goal (critical, too), and plastering their environment with reminders of what the goal is (writing your goal times on your pull buoy, for example).
But as important as those steps are, they don’t amount to much without an equal amount of commitment to the things you need to do on a daily basis to get there.
Dreaming up a down-the-line goal isn’t that hard—it’s the committing to the process of it that is the challenging, and ultimately the most rewarding, part.
The goal is simply a quick expression of your process. It’s sort of like just a snapshot of your process. No matter how great you feel on the day that you accomplish your goal, it doesn’t compare to the feelings of goodness you accrue over the hundreds and thousands of moments where you “win” within your process.
After all, when you consider how short most of the races are in the pool, the actual goal is a tiny sliver of time compared to the process. When you are sliding out of the pool on the day of the race the swim you just did is simply a representation of your process.
Your big goal is the North Star for the process you need.
Big goals are fun, but in a way they are kind of meaningless. Sounds harsh but wishing for something doesn’t make it happen. Wanting something really, really badly doesn’t make it happen either. It’s wanting the work that comes along with it that will be the barometer of how close you will get to it. I’m not saying you have to love the work, or wake up every morning pining for it, but you need to welcome it in a “Bring it on, fool!” kind of way.
Choose the process every day and reap endless motivation
You know what’s better than bottomless fries?
Bottomless motivation. And that’s what choosing the process does. Sure, dreaming the dream might make you feel a little warm and fuzzy, but that doesn’t last.
Because soon enough it’s replaced with reality. The reality of where you are right now and all that hard work, all the sacrifice, all the test sets and lactate work that stand between where you are and where you are trying to be. Even just writing that out feels overwhelming.
And it sure ain’t motivating, either.
But having a process, a routine, a set of concrete and measurable things to work on each day? These things give you daily shots of motivation that keep you on track and fired up over the length of the season.
The Next Steps
So, where do we go from here?
How do we choose the process?
Start with your top five.
Over the past couple weeks I’ve mentioned building a top five list to work on in training.
Start with this.
Pick the top five things that you can work on every day to improve as a swimmer.
Quick example of the power of a top five:
An athlete I’ve been working with added “Eat a healthy dinner” to their top five list.
Super simple, right? Too simple? Why not just say, “Eat healthy all the time no matter what”? Because the latter example rarely sticks.
But eating one healthy meal? No problem. Anyone can do that.
The sneaky thing that starts to happen is that your commitment to that one meal starts to spread to your other meals.
Keep looking for little things to improve.
A powerful process works when it is slowly escalates over time.
You continually do things a wee bit faster, with less strokes, for longer, as time goes on.
Progress your process.
What’s your job as a swimmer?
Seriously. I mean it. What’s the job when you get into the pool?
To swim to the other pool as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Your job isn’t worrying about the competition. Your job isn’t waiting for motivation to strike you.
Process-focused training works because it forces you to keep things simple.
Stick to your job.
Anytime that big goal peeks it’s head around the corner, give it a friendly wave (“Howdy ho!”), and then turn back to your process.
The things you control.
The things you can work on today at the pool.
The things that will make you the swimmer you want to become.
More Stuff Like This:
This Mental Training Workbook Will Help You Swim Like a Rock Star This Season. Confused about mental training? Want to unleash pro mode on your swimming this year? Learn how this mental training workbook will change your mindset and help you pummel your PB’s this season.
Why You Should Be Grading Your Effort After Practice. One of my favorite ways to stay consistent and accountable in practice is this simple technique. Takes about three seconds, and will keep you honest about the effort in the water.