I talked about the virtues of competition and how it’s often more about raising our performance as a team rather than “winning.” But it’s also about raising ones’ own performance in the process. The best example I have seen of this is while observing an Ironman Triathlon.
On our vacation a few weeks back, we stayed in a city that was hosting an Ironman triathlon. An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride followed by a full marathon (26.2 miles). It’s a grueling test of physical and mental endurance that starts before sunrise and culminates with your name being read as you cross the finish line (often late at night) to the words, “You are an Ironman!”
During the few days following the event, my kids had the opportunity to ask some of the participants about their experience and their training regimens. They learned that these individuals spent 12 to 18 months training several hours each day – all to prepare themselves for this one event that would last 12-16-hours. My kids were fascinated.
With the exception of a few elite athletes looking to place on the podium and win a prize, it was clear from everyone we spoke to that their purpose for participating in this physically demanding event was both individual and personal: to compete against themselves. The athletes talked only about beating their time from a past event and/or the desire just to finish, an accomplishment in itself as there are individual cut-off times for each stage of the race. If you don’t meet them, you won’t be able to finish.
When we got home, my boys started setting up an obstacle course around the neighborhood. They were so inspired by the stories these athletes shared with them that they even started looking up Ironkids events online. We hope to find one we can take them to next year.
At its core, the Ironman is inspiring because it’s all about challenging yourself to get to another level – a level that you did not think was possible. In fact, the event’s slogan is, “Anything is Possible.”
Even if you don’t compete in a triathlon, I would challenge you to do something in your life that feels impossible. Maybe it’s running 5 miles without stopping. Maybe it’s taking a chance on something you have always wanted to do. It’s about deciding to do it and then taking small actions each and every day until you get there. A triathlete doesn’t just get up in the morning and decide to swim, bike and run back-to-back for 12 hours. It’s years of practice to the goal.
By challenging yourself individually and setting personal goals, you’ll gain the confidence to make significant changes to other areas of your life and challenge your own assumptions about what you can and cannot do.
Quote of the Week
“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”
Have a great weekend!