For the past couple of years I’ve set goals at the beginning of each year as a way to challenge myself, improve in certain areas and generally live more inspired.
While I’ve set some inspiring and challenging goals in the past, this year I set a particularly audacious one – at least for me – to do a triathlon.
As I’ve set and worked toward more goals I’ve discovered that physical challenges are particularly powerful.
I think it’s because pushing ourselves physically requires tapping into many other key areas – mental, spiritual, etc. As we become stronger and physically healthier we are able to excel in other areas of life because we feel better, we have more stamina, etc.
The physical really affects everything.
Last year my physical goal was to run two half-marathons. It was a fine goal except I don’t think it challenged me enough. I know that could sound crazy or even pretentious.
Of course running over 13 miles is physically challenging, but I’d already done it a few times so it wasn’t new. It didn’t require anything additional from me so I don’t think it propelled me forward as much as a more demanding goal may have.
I’d been toying with the idea of doing a triathlon for several years. The problem was I had so many excuses for why I thought it wasn’t possible.
I didn’t have a bike. I didn’t have a pool membership to train for swimming. I’d never really done an open water swim. I didn’t have the right kind of wet suit (I have an old surfing wet suit that is a bit ripped and a little too thick and restrictive for swimming), I didn’t have the right kind of swimsuit or top for triathlons, the registration was expensive (about $100).
Based on lessons I’ve learned from pursuing other goals I know that taking the first step is often the most difficult. Setting the intention and moving in the direction of a big goal gets the process going.
Also, the bigger and more audacious the goal, the more magnetic it seems to be. I’m discovering that for me if a goal isn’t at least a little scary, it likely doesn’t have enough gravity to pull me in.
So, despite all of my excuses and uncertainty, I somehow mustered up the courage and decided to register for a race anyway.
I wasn’t sure where I’d get a bike, if my wet suit would work or if I could afford the pool membership but I was determined to somehow make it happen.
The difference with this goal and some others I’ve pursued is that attaining it wasn’t totally within my control.
With most other goals it was entirely up to me whether or not they were achieved.
Doing a triathlon was going to require some outside help. Fortunately, I got that outside help and the experience of seeing where it came from and how it propelled me forward was amazing.
After going through this process, I’m convinced there is something mysterious and powerful about us stepping out and taking a real leap of faith to do something that we don’t think is possible, that genuinely makes us nervous, something that we honestly don’t know how we’ll accomplish.
Something happens and forces work to make it happen. Depending on your perspective those forces could be God, the universe or something else.
I personally think it is God. I think he gets excited to see us step out in faith and pursue something he has put on our heart. I think he likes to partner with us as we take risks and challenge ourselves in positive ways.
I also think that people get inspired by us taking a risk and want to help us achieve our goals.
I was lucky enough to experience both.
Shortly after I submitted my registration I received two emails from marketing/research firms asking me to share my knowledge of the admissions world by filling out a survey in exchange for $100 Amazon gift cards ($200 total).
That pretty much solved the cost issue. I was able to buy a swimsuit and triathlon top on Amazon. The left over Amazon money was enough to offset the registration fee because we could purchase other things we needed on Amazon with those funds.
When I told my friends at work about doing the triathlon and mentioned not having a bike, my friend Jamison immediately offered to let me use his. I didn’t tell them in hopes of someone offering to share, but that is what happened and I’m so grateful.
I discovered that our local pool had a “punch card” program where you could by a certain number of accesses to the pool and use them whenever was convenient. That was a much cheaper and more convenient option than having to purchase a monthly membership.
Another friend of mine, Scott, is an incredible athlete who has completed many triathlons. I was able to ask him for input and advice throughout the training process. He was an invaluable source of info about the details of training and preparing for a triathlon.
He also invited me to do a couple of open water swims with him at the lake where my race would take place.
Open water swimming was the part the race I was most nervous about so it was awesome to try it for the first time with someone as experienced as him. Also, during my first open water swim I discovered that while not perfect, my old wet suit would work just fine.
Last, a friend of my wife’s who works out at our local CrossFit gym happened to be training for the same race as me. He had also done a triathlon before so we ended up training together a couple of times, which included actually doing the whole race the week prior the actual event. I was able to glean additional helpful info from him and gained a new friend in the process.
July 8th was race day and it was incredible.
It definitely wasn’t easy the whole time but I felt prepared and so accomplished when I finished.
As icing on the cake some friends from work surprised me and showed up to cheer me on. Having them there as well as my family was so encouraging. A couple of them even mentioned that being there inspired them to consider trying a triathlon in the future.
I would be lying if I didn’t say there were serious set backs and challenges along the way. There were days I didn’t want to train or where it was painfully difficult and I wanted to give up, times swimming in the lake where panic started to set in because I couldn’t relax and breathe, doubt that I would be able to finish the race, fear that I would be at the back of the pack and look silly.
I think what made me successful in the end was not expecting perfection, a commitment to keep moving forward one small step at a time and, most importantly, seeing the amazing things God was doing to help make it happen. Partnering with him to accomplish this goal was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I hope this story encourages you to consider tackling an audacious goal of your own.
Yours may not be physical like mine but that’s OK.
One of the great things about goals is they are relative to each of us. What makes them powerful is that they challenge us personally. What is challenging to one person is entirely different from what is challenging for another. The key is to do what will inspire you and propel you forward in life.
So go ahead, take that first scary, challenging step today. I think you’ll be amazed at what happens!