This Back to Basics tip comes courtesy of a personal experience that recently kind of blew my mind in its simplicity. You’re gonna love it. It is, wait for it…writing stuff down.
I hate to admit that I can sometimes be nauseatingly susceptible to over-competitiveness. You’re probably thinking, “duh, you compete. In sports. That’s the point.” And yes, I would agree that it is, to an extent. There is the healthy level of competitiveness that gets you on the bike or track or treadmill every day and keeps you going in a race even when you’d rather quit and go home, and then there’s the unchecked, soul-eating competitiveness that makes irrational comparisons and stops any progress before it even has a chance to start. I am, admittedly, susceptible to the latter.
Call it perfectionism, call it hard-headedness, call it absolutely crazy for a fully-formed adult to throw what amounts to a temper tantrum when he or she falls short of some imagined standard of success, but it has happened to me and I have seen it happen countless other times to clients as well. Picture this: a successful human being by all reasonable measures descending into a mini-crisis of anger and self-loathing just because he or she can’t execute a proper dead lift. Or is huffing and puffing after half a minute of jumping rope. Or can’t bench press as much as they remember benching in college. Or sees someone much older (or younger) running, biking, and swimming much faster than they in a race. Reading this now, it may seem crazy to you for anyone to measure themselves by such standards, but that is how the unchecked, overly competitive ego
acts REacts. And it is a performance killer. In fact, it can be a career killer.
So, before you let such over-competitiveness ruin your chances at greatness (or now that you’ve had a few blinding flashes of recognition in the examples above), what can you do about it? The answer is so simple, you won’t even believe me that it is actually a solution to anything besides helping you remember stuff: Write. It. Down. The purpose here is to always have your most recent benchmark in mind that you are working against. That’s it – instead of seeing what someone else is doing, how fast someone else is going, how heavy someone else is lifting, a written record can help keep your own accomplishments in mind for you to reference with each workout. Your written record keeps your focus on your own standard of performance and helps prevent distractions like ego-fueled over-competitiveness. This is not to say that you can’t use a little healthy competition to chase down someone running ahead of you in your next race, but that’s just the difference: competitiveness acts, while over-competitiveness REacts. So whether you catch that other racer or not, you have your own latest achievements, written down, in ink, somewhere that you can check it easily and often, to keep your standards (and your ego) in check and keep you acting instead of reacting.
And this goes for the new and seasoned athletes alike – if you’re just getting back into shape and getting ready for your first race, or you’ve done countless races before and you’re starting a new cross training regimen, get out your pens or phones and make copious notes of each performance, and the dates that you hit them: run, bike, and swim times based on distance, or various weights based on rep schemes. That way, the next time another racer is smoking you on the trail, or the CrossFit WOD, you will have your own recent accomplishments in mind instead of thinking, “Why can’t I [insert verb] as [insert adverb] as that guy?” Don’t let verbs and adverbs ruin your confidence! Write it down, then get out there and do your best!