Constant Pursuit of the Win


I remember reading a book by Dr George Sheehan, a physician and running athlete who made his fame writing books about running, when I first started competing in individual sports as a teenager. Something he said really stood out to me. He said the first thing he opens all his speeches and coaching sessions with was, the wish that all the junior runners listening could win theirfirst race as soon as possible. He was wishing them this so they could see that winning wasn’t what they most likely expected - that when you win, you’ve ‘arrived’, you’re done, job is finished, success and happiness are yours. He wanted them to learn, early, how fleeting (and almost empty) winning was, so they’d realise the fruit was in the efforts pursuing the win. Sounds obvious but many pursue the end as the end. An end goal, state, asset, thing… The smart ones when they get their win, move on to the next thing. Like any moment, our wins pass, and then, win or not, success or failure, you need to decide whether you start again.


That interests me because most competitors or people who’re competitive with themselves tie themselves in knots with anxiety, angst, doubt, and a whole lot of other psychological noise in pursuit of their end. And yet if you are driven to get better and be better at whatever it is you’ve chosen, there is no end. Where do you stop? You don’t. There is always something you can do better. All that stress to arrive at our end, when we know very well there is no end. And regardless of the outcome, we’re going to start again. This is what helps a process focus. Because it takes the all powerful importance we place on being successful off us, and allows us to actually focus on the steps to get there. So they could see how fleeting (and almost empty) winning was


We often think of all the good things we’ll feel and get when we get ‘there’, but don’t go through with the necessary steps because the pain (commitment, work hours, energy, effort, dedication, persistence, etc) to get there is too much. So we never really make it. The quote above from Dr Sheehan really sums it up for me. Maybe the question we should ask is not what pleasure we’re after but what pain we’re willing to endure? If you think about anyone who’s really elite at what they do, we usually think about how much we’d love their success. I personally think most, if exposed to what the elite had to endure to be successful, would say hell no. We want the success, but not enough to endure the sacrifices they have to get it. 


So some ramblings in summary: 

  1. Your end goal is desirable otherwise you wouldn’t work for it! But realise the work you’re doing to get there IS the rewarding part.
  2. Accept where you are, and that you’ll keep working to get better, this will help you stay process focussed.
  3. Consider this, what sacrifices (pain) are you willing to endure to get to the next ‘end’?