It has been observed, by those close to me, that when faced with a problem I head straight to the details. Instead of looking at the big picture, the end game, the overall goal, I get lost in the details: what will it look like, what needs to be done now, is it possible right now, how many possible ways are there to do this? This could be my personality. I am by nature a day to day person, mindful of the present moment and not that worried about the future. Perhaps it is a combination of that and the circumstances that formed my young existence: taking up sport at a young age, being immersed in excellence before I had much control over anything but the way I performed. Of course, it is a combination of everything: nature, nurture, experience and chance. To me, details are the journey, the path of existence. What I decide to do right now and how I do it, the attitude I choose and the things I chose to pay attention to...these things drive the way my day goes.
Years and years--going on 40 now--of being immersed in a passion (for me, running) has obviously shaped who I am. I sat down at a soccer game the other day, and took up a conversation with another mom. On the topic of running the upcoming half marathon, she was firm in her resolve to not race and declared that racing evoked too much anxiety. In one nano second, my soccer mom hat had shifted and coach Lucy stepped in. I wanted to find out why anxiety was there, I wanted to figure it out and help her move past it and find joy in running. But I didn't. I let it go. Sometimes you have to know when to step aside and just listen.
I have had my share of pre race anxiety. Sleepless nights, worrisome thoughts about reaching goals, being good enough, worthy of my chosen profession and even fear of failure. This is the stuff of high performance sport. I don't miss those days--much. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss those exciting days a little. I never wanted to let anxiety derail me. I always wanted to rise above it, work with it, use it to lift me to higher level. And the way I did that was to hammer into the details. I made sure I did everything right. Before a race, I made sure I trained as best I could. I ate, slept, practiced my sport psychology, got massage and physio, organized my gear. Details were the only way I could break something so vast, so desired, into a manageable project that I had to execute.
A few days ago, I was reminded yet again of the details. This is the best way I can describe the process.
My Mantra—while I was a full time professional athlete could be summed up like this:
If you are going to try and be the best you better do everything right. There are so many details to take care of when training and racing, travelling and eating well. Every day you are given a hundred opportunities to practice doing everything right, and with that a hundred opportunities to choose success.
The thing with doing everything right and taking care of all the details is that it is very proactive and very conscious. You develop practices and set yourself up to succeed and that’s all you can do. Even if you fall short of your goals the disappointment is only temporary because inside you know you did your best.
If you succeed the happiness is also only temporary because the outcome was not luck or chance but your actions. Joy is the practice.
Confidence is not the winning, but the daily practice of learning and perfecting skills. Making yourself capable.
The opposite is the self-sabotage athletes, the ones that cut corners intentionally or unconsciously, they overlook the small details and give themselves the small chink, the opening to fail. Of course, they always fall short of their goals and because they know they had some small part in it, they are never happy, and that drama is their story.
Being the best is not about beating others, or pushing others away or beating yourself for not succeeding. It’s about you, your chance to choose greatness and move towards that even if it means staring failure and fear in the face.
Writing about the art of moving well and the lived experience of a life in sport.