Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Personal Victory

Think for a moment. . . What if you just finished the fastest race of your life and you were sixth in your age group? Question: Are you a loser?

Answer: No.

In time all of you will compete in a race where you swim faster, bike faster, and run stronger and faster than you ever have before. On that day the exhilaration of the accomplishment will leave you brimming with confidence and offer you a quiet sense of pride. Winning is about racing your best.
So, what does it mean when someone says, “I will give it my best.”? Time has taught me that these words are either a commitment to excellence and are representative of determination and resolve or they are words that lack substance and offer no promise of performance or effort.
To those who would be a part of the first group the word “BEST” is tangible. It is something they see in their mind’s eye. During a training workout they feel it as they break new barriers of doubt, distance, or pain. In moments of decision they reach for something deeper and refuse to quit. . . on themselves. They understand what it means to run with heart, because they have reached the point where everything physical seems to have quit. Those who belong to this group find victory long before race day.
Over the years I have watched athletes who have crawled out of the water at the brink of exhaustion, and yet cross the finish line to the cheers of family, friends, and strangers, only to be emotionally overwhelmed by their accomplishment. I have watch athletes wobble, stumble, and even fall at the finish line only to find the strength to stand as the finishers’ award was hung around their neck and raised their arms in victory. I have cheered for these athletes. For a few I have been emotionally touched by their personal achievement. In my mind and heart they will ever stand as champions. I have no doubt they truly gave their best.
I have been fortunate to associate with athletes that do not take their physical skills for granted. To them their “Best” is clearly defined. They have specific goals with measurable outcomes. They set precise objectives and strive to achieve them. Each training day has a focus, a purpose, even if it is to rest and recover. They understand success is in overcoming the obstacles, disappointments and even failures, and rising to new challenges and achievements. When, not if, they fall short of a target they see it as a learning experience and become a better competitor because of it. They understand that to reach their goal of doing their best they will need to develop a stronger character and persist where others might relent. They know and accept that it won’t be easy.
Now, think for a moment. . . What if you just finished a race where you failed to do your best and you won your age group because of little or no competition? Question: Would you feel like a winner?