Monday, November 06, 2006

Terms of Engagement

I’ve been thinking a lot about accomplishment recently.

At one point, a few months ago, I wrote something that has returned to in my thinking recently about why we do triathlons (or at least why I do), but also what failure and success is. Because that’s the rub of life, isn’t it? That in order to have achievement -- to be set apart by one’s decisions and deeds -- it is required that we first define success. And with that, of course, comes the concept of failure. A philosophical imperative, of sorts.

Back when I started training for triathlons, a very concerned and very loving family member who asked – “well, what if you fail?” His concern was that I would lose ground in a long battle for peace and confidence. Playing by the lofty and challenging goals of triathlons may be beyond my means. And the concern was not unfounded because, of course, where there is great reward, there is also great risk of loss. Triathlons are challenging and triathletes are exceptional.

And I had to chew on that concept for a while, turn it around in my head and look at it from all angles. What if I stopped training before my first race, out of laziness or prioritizing other goals ahead of triathlon? I had been lazy in the past, and I had been fickle with my hobbies and interests, too. What if I was too scared to start my first race? What if I could – or would – not finish? I can be terribly persuasive, and unfortunately that makes it much easier to talk myself out of things, as well as into things! What if I only did one race? And, more pointedly, what if I did not live up to my potential and sold my achievements short of my natural ability? What if I made excuses for my actions or sourced what (or who) determined my success in other events, limitations, or people?

This is a battle we wage every single day. For every meaningful decision, there is a complicated matrix of why and how that I believe helps build character and integrity. But the rules of the engagement are often not readily apparent and are fraught with definitions provided by others, rather than one’s self.

And what I have come to believe is that I define the rules of engagement in this endeavor. I decide what I am seeking and how I will accomplish this. I decide how far to go and what to prioritize below and above. I determine whether I have failed or succeeded. I measure my accomplishments and do so based on what I value.

I am terribly lucky for the sport of triathlon – and the people I have met through the sport – but, I must always remember that the race is not the end, it is only part of the endeavor.

And with this approach, I can’t go wrong.

It’s not always easy to remember this rule. It is so very easy to slip back into charting mileage based on the expectations of others, picking activities and races based out of pride or fear of shame, and imposing demands on my self inconsistent with my hopes. Those are behaviors of habit – a well ingrained habit, but certainly not the hardest one I have had to break. In fact, I’ve become rather adepts at breaking habits recently!

So, I have been thinking about this all over the last week. I have considered these ideas when tracking all those bloggy friends toeing the line in Florida, and when planning my own personal time. And, of course, with the marathon coming up in the near future, I have had thoughts of why, how, and how fast.

And I am growing comfortable in my relatively new approach. I am growing comfortable making this endeavor not about the expectations of others, but about my own joy, my own challenges, and my own successes. And that feels oh so much better than before. Because it is solid. Because I am solid.

And that, I know, is because I have set the terms of engagement. I act only upon my own behest, and achieve more because of this. I know what it means to succeed for me, and I know what it means to fail. And if I do either, I do it on my own terms.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

What a terrific post. Defining success with your own yard stick can be difficult at times, especially in tri-blogging land where there are so many amazing athletes! Looking forward to toeing the line with you in Philly in 13 days!