I started training for swimming a month ago. For a sprint triathlon, one will have to swim 800 meters without stopping. Alright, that’s my goal. I’ve calculated the length of the pool I use: 25 meters. Okay, 32 laps it is!
On my first day I started with great optimism. “Okay Tina, you can do this! 10 laps without stopping! Go!” By the end of lap 2, I was collapsed over the edge of the pool lane, huffing and puffing to catch my breath. My performance was pathetic and it brought with it the clarity I needed to practice harder. I continued to swim laps every other day, stopping only to catch my breath when needed, until I’d finished a cumulative of 32 laps.
Two weeks later, I overheard an older lady talking about her experience with a sprint triathlon, and I went over to ask a few questions. She said for the swimming leg, I’ll need to prepare to be able to do 40 laps, since it’ll be in a lake and the measurements are not very exact. And also that it was important that I train myself to be able to swim all 40 laps non-stop, or risk drowning.
Forty LAPS??? Holy Crap!
I recall hearing a small voice in my head whispering, “I‘ll never be able to do that”, and then a few pulses later, I heard Tony Robbins’ voice yelling, “If you can’t, then you must!”
Well, all I can say is that there’s nothing like the threat of death by drowning that motivates one to get creative. With that in mind, that very same day I was able to swim the 40 laps without stopping.
Four to Forty Laps in One Day
For one thing, I noticed that I had been experiencing breathing issues when I did the freestyle stroke, which made me super tired and in need of catching my breath at the end of every two laps. So, I started to do back strokes – something I am more comfortable with. My goal wasn’t to look like a professional freestyle swimmer, my goal was to stay afloat and swim the length of 40 laps continuously, so that in an emergency situation, I wouldn’t drown.
Now I do 40 laps each time I hit the pool. Here’s what I’ve observed:
I start with enough confidence and energy to complete all 40 laps. The first 2 laps are easy. But then I start to feel tired. The next 10 or so laps are the hardest. I start to witness my mind looking for excuses to stop. I feel it finding and pointing out the discomfort in my body so that it can maybe convince me that I’m too tired to continue.
Once I get myself to complete 10 laps, things gets significantly easier, and my body is just riding out the repetitive movements. Laps 20 to 30, and from 30 to 40 are a breeze. When I actually hit lap 40, I feel that I can easily do 10 more laps.
Upon further thought, I have noticed that this pattern of easy-difficult-easy can be seen in many other aspects of life: starting a business, starting a blog, learning a new skill, long distance running, etc.
Let’s take blogging as an example. When a blogger first starts out, they are enthusiastic and hopeful for the future. Pretty easy so far. But all bloggers will go through a period near the start of their blogging career where they experience friction. They may feel discouraged that it’s tough to attract new readers or to market themselves. Or they may run into technology issues and they feel the urge to quite. But if they just hang on and persist through the discouragement and friction, they’ll reach a certain threshold where blogging and marketing become natural and easy, at which point they will be capable of continuing on indefinitely.
The same is true for starting and running a successful business. It starts with fresh enthusiasm which makes the job appear easy. But soon, we experience some form of hardship or problem where we have to work long and challenging hours. The friction makes it tempting to quit, but more likely than not, if we soldier on, staying innovative and persistent, we will succeed.
Take Away Lesson
What I’ve learned through this observation is that persistence is the key! The ability to hanging on, when others have easily given up separates the failures from the triumphs. In life, it isn’t about finding the most comfortable route, but rather finding destinations you want to arrive at and keeping moving until you get there.
No matter how insurmountable a goal may seem, if you just keep trying, one step at a time, there will be a point at which the steps necessary to get there become an easy and effortless trek.
Anything is possible.