Have you ever noticed how easy it is to avoid doing the very things we know will get us the results we say we want? Have you ever avoided doing something you knew was absolutely necessary, but had no idea why you were avoiding it? Me too.
In every endeavor, there are certain immutable requirements or “natural laws” of success. Yet sometimes, in attempts to avoid discomfort or achieve our goals with less effort or anxiety, we spend too much time and energy hoping to flout those laws. But it can’t, won’t, simply doesn’t work. That’s why they’re called laws. Break them and you lose.
In December of 1997 my husband, Bill, began training for the 1998 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, which was held on October 3, 1998. Nine to 10 months is not a long time to prepare for a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride (humid and very windy), and 26.2-mile marathon run. But it’s achievable if you create a good plan and stick to it (which my husband did).
Swimming has never been his strength, and he hadn’t been in the pool in a decade. The rest of his training program started out pretty well. He began running again by steadily building up his mileage. He pulled his bike off the hooks in the garage where it had been hanging upside down for a long time, dusted it off, got it tuned up, and began riding. He even started pumping iron twice a week to build his strength. But the swimming…
December passed, then January, and by February, Bill knew he was behind in his swimming program. We’d heard that 70% of being a good swimmer is technique, so he bought a swimming technique book. Next he bought the swimming video. (Could he really have been foolish enough to think he could read and watch his way through the Ironman swim? Or was his judgment clouded by pure and simple denial?) By the end of February, he had still managed to avoid getting wet and I was getting worried. Bill enrolled in a swim clinic being held the last weekend in March. I guess he thought there was no point getting in the water until he learned the proper technique!
With this twisted logic, we could say it’s too bad the clinic wasn’t even further off — or even after Ironman — maybe he could have gotten by with no swimming at all. Yeah, right! Are there activities you don’t enjoy or aren’t the best at, yet which are absolutely required for you to excel at a higher level? And which you delude yourself into thinking you could put off altogether?
Fortunate for my husband, he has a friend in Mark Allen, the six-time Hawaii Ironman champion. In the first week of March, Bill was helping Mark work on his presentation skills for his motivational speaking career when he asked about Bill’s training. Bill gave him the full report about his running progress, cycling development, and weight training regimen. He rambled on, hoping Mark wouldn’t notice that Bill had left out the swimming part.
But Mark’s question was inevitable: “So, how’s the swimming going?” he asked Bill. So much for Bill’s fancy footwork (which my husband is known to do and is very good at).
Bill said (as he smiled weakly), “Uh, well … I’ve been reading this book and, uh, watching this video about proper technique. And I’m signed up for a swim clinic.”
“Great. How’s it going in the pool?” Mark asked.
Caught, Bill gave it up. “I haven’t actually been in the pool yet,” Bill said.
“You know, Bill,” Mark said slowly and pointedly, “you really should get in the pool.”
Duh. The simple truth has amazing power. Just hearing Mark utter those words shattered Bill’s avoidance behavior pattern. Mark was right, of course. Bill had to get in the pool. Not in March. Not next week. Right now. Today.
You may be putting yourself through mental gymnastics to avoid the very things that will take you where you want to go. The sooner you get in the pool, the sooner you will be on your way to your next level of success.
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