Six Months In – A Great Time for Reflection

At the start of every year I inevitably set some goals or at least do some planning in terms of what I’d like to achieve for the year. This year was no different. In fact I posted on this blog about two very specific goals for the year and elaborated on only one of them.

It’s exactly 6 months to the day since I started training in earnest for reaching one of my two goals – finishing an Ironman Triathlon. It’s been a steep learning curve and at times I experienced real frustration and even fear. Frustration and fear to such an extent that I genuinely doubted whether my goal was a realistic one or not. The fear and doubt all relates to the swimming part of the triathlon. Prior to the 14th of January 2019 I have never swam the length of a pool.

Looking back at my training log, I recorded 325 meters of swimming on that very first day. It took me more than 50 minutes to complete that distance and not once throughout that session did I swim further than 25 meters without stopping to gasp for air. The very next day I recorded 450 meters (all still done in singles) in 42 minutes and two days later, 500 meters in 35 minutes. On the 7th of July I recorded an unbroken swim of 2000 meters in 41 minutes. That’s not quick, in fact is downright slow but compared to that first swim it’s a vast improvement.

The training sessions between that first swim and the effort of the 7th of July was characterized by immense frustration and constant doubt. Very seldom did I return from the pool feeling that I’ve made progress. For the most part I believed I was not making any progress whatsoever – because it didn’t feel as if I were making progress. And that’s why it is necessary to every now and then, just to pause and to reflect. To stand still and to take stock – because feelings are misleading.

Very often people, as the year drags on, gets derailed. They loose focus and enthusiasm and it is mainly because they neglect to reflect. We constantly need to remind ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing. We constantly need to refresh, adjust and refocus. Reflection affords us the opportunity to not only remind ourselves of our goals and the reasons for chasing them, it also provides us with a true measure of progress. A measure not influenced by feelings or how we stack up against others. Using others as a yardstick will inevitably lead to disappointment. Similarly will conclusions based on feelings lead to despair.

Measuring progress should be based on the truth and factors within our control. The truth is that I have no reason to doubt myself. The truth is that I made progress and that with every passing day I’m edging ever closer towards reaching my goal. The truth is the perfect antidote for expelling fear and doubt – and a sure way to realize this is to take time to reflect.

And the same holds true for life in general. Live a life based on feelings and you’ll be up and down like a yo-yo. You’ll be unbalanced and inconsistent. Live your life based on the truth about who you actually are and you’ll become balanced and grounded. You’ll still have your ups and downs but you’ll no longer be led by your emotions. Your security will be the fact that you’re grounded in who you are which means that for others you’ll become mature, consistent, decisive and strong. Only way to discover who you really are, is to pause and to reflect. Ask yourself from which perspective do you live. Feelings or Facts? Ask yourself what changes you can make to live your life more consistently based on the truth of who you actually are?

Making time to reflect might just become the best decision you’ve ever made towards altering the course of your life from being an up and down roller-coaster ride to being on a steady path in pursuit of your goals.

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A New Year, a New Mountain

It’s Monday 14 January 2019. A new year with new opportunities beckons. I’ve made a decision, I chose myself a new mountain to climb. No, wait, I chose two mountains to climb. Summits I intend to reach simultaneously. More on the second mountain later…

The first mountain involves the sport of triathlon. I’ve set small little goals throughout the year, all intended to make reaching the ultimate prize in April 2020 a reality.

I’ve never run a marathon, ever. In fact I haven’t been beyond 10 kilometers. I have also never swam further than 5 meters in my life. So, two of the three disciplines are going to present me with a proper challenge. The third discipline is cycling and I would like to think that I’ve got that covered.

Although I’m not one for dwelling on the past, I am a little pissed at myself for not grabbing the bull by the horns much earlier than January 2019. I’ve had this dream of completing a triathlon for three years now and, up to now, haven’t done anything about it. That all changed on the 14th. My brother send me a text message to meet him at the pool at 12h00. Like I said, I haven’t swam the length of an Olympic sized pool in my life. I figured I first needed a coach before jumping off into the deep-end. But on that day I decided, screw it, I’m giving this a go. I swam 325m. A small step for mankind but a giant leap for myself! Since then I bagged another 3000m. The point is this: procrastination will cause your life and your dreams to pass you by. It will steal your happiness and rob your life of meaning and purpose. Don’t stall, go out there and just do it!

In the meantime I’ve also ran my first 10k and a week later took 4min 30sec off that time! Needless to say that I’m very happy with my progress. That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced my fair bit of frustrations. Swimming is still far from easy and on most occasions I still swallow half the pool. But I intend on doing something about it. I found a coach and for the next couple of months I’ll work on my technique and get it right.

Looking back at the progress I made over the last couple of weeks I realised that the real rewards are to be found in the process. Yes, crossing the finishing line and getting the medal hung around your neck is great but it is only by embracing the process of getting there that the goal will be reached. Reaching small milestones, seeing progress and dealing and banishing the daily frustrations is where the fun lies. Too often the end goal overwhelms us and causes us to quit. Striving to be better, stronger and fitter each day will turn each and every step of the way into small victories worth celebrating and will keep you edging ever closer to achieving that goal.

So, whatever mountain you chose for yourself, get up and go climb it. Don’t delay another day.