To reach your personal best, you need to learn how to challenge the person in the mirror. He or she is your toughest adversary and your only real competition. Discovering how to overcome your limitations, fears and self-doubts will do more for your development than defeating a dozen competitors. We share with you today a short story highlighting swimmer Diana Nyad overcoming a coveted goal she attempted years ago, along with four principles you can start applying today to become a better version of yourself.
I remember a talk by swimmer Diana Nyad. Turning 60, Nyad was driving one day and saw her eyes in the rearview mirror. For some reason, that glance prompted her to remember “the one that got away.” It was a coveted goal she had attempted back in her 20’s – to swim nonstop from Florida to Cuba. But the 111 mile stretch through shark and jelly fish infested waters defeated her and she moved on with her life. In fact, she broke a women’s world record for a 22 mile swim from Capri to Naples; shattered the top time for swimming around Manhattan; and trounced the open-ocean world record for men and women in a 102.5 mile swim from the Bahamas to Florida.
Now nearly 60, she decided to conquer the goal that had eluded her decades earlier. She hadn’t swum a stroke in 21 years but her determination drove her to spend non-stop hours in the water swimming – first 8 hours, then 10, then 12, gradually regaining her strength, stamina and technique. Certainly no one would have thought less of her if she never again attempted the Florida to Cuba swim. But attempt it she did – and at age 64 she swam from Key West to Havana – the first person to do so without a protective cage; a special mask and suit protected her from stings. She’s moved on to bigger and better goals – she and her Cuba swim expedition leader Bonnie Stoll have founded EverWalk, the biggest walking initiative ever undertaken in this country with a goal of improving the health of everyday Americans.
To reach your personal best, you need to learn how to challenge the person in the mirror. He or she is your toughest adversary and your only real competition. And discovering how to overcome your limitations, fears and self-doubts will do more for your development than defeating a dozen competitors. Here’s what to do:
Be growth minded, not goal minded – If you obsess over a single goal, what happens if you don’t accomplish it? Of for that matter, what happens if you do? Ever heard of a Super Bowl hangover – a lot of times, the champs flounder the next season. That’s why I like to concentrate on growth rather than goals. That game is never over. We’re not distraught if we’ve lost and we haven’t peaked if we’ve won. There’s always room to improve when your goal is to continue growing.
Emphasize Gradual Progress – Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that fixating on “a number” is a sure way to fail. Twenty pounds is intimidating and discouraging when the scale seems to barely budge. But two pounds is manageable. Achieve a 2 pound goal 10 times and you’ll drop the 20 pounds. To achieve incremental goals, develop incremental disciplines each day. As part of my daily work routine for example, I read or listen to someone else’s teaching with a goal of capturing at least one quote to use in a future speaking opportunity. Sales people make a certain number of phone calls, daily touching base with past clients and reaching out to prospects. Big success tomorrow depends on the little things you do today.
Develop Your Strengths – When I was growing up my parents encourage e me to find the one thing I did best and to channel my energy toward it. That was incredibly liberating as I didn’t have to worry about trying to be all things to all people. Countless athletes play multiple sports as kids, but the ones that go on to play in college or professionally almost always give up a sport they play well to focus on one in which they can be great. The same applies to you: identify your natural strengths and pursue them with passion. A Gallup research project discovered that people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on their job. And you won’t push yourself to new heights if your heart isn’t in your work.
Partner with other Winners – It’s easy to lose sight of how well you’re doing or how to develop your strengths if you depend only on your own perspectives. The solution – get a mentor. I’ve had the privilege of being coached by some of the brightest people in their fields. It’s amazing how much difference their insight and advice make. So find someone in your field or a related field that has accomplished great things. And ask them to serve as your mentor.