This article was written a few weeks ago, before any of us new what state we would be in today. But I feel that it applies to the times we are in now, keep being and athlete, keep training, when we get through this and we come out the other side, we will be glad that we did.
Bill Bowerman, one of the most prolific track coaches of all time, has been quoted and has embodied the quote fully, “if you have a body you are an athlete.” Many high level athletes, coaches, competitors alike will go on to attempt to educate the world on the extreme benefits of treating yourself like an athlete. There is an interesting stance on this from those who have wide experience with athletics, the benefit seemingly transcends the body and helps to develop and shape the mind. I know we have adopted this mantra at CFO because of the incredible benefit to viewing any situation through the eyes of an athlete.
Thus, we enter the mind of an athlete.
We learn the value of learning, because we are not born with much, a bunch of genes and 23 pairs of chromosomes. And to advance our human performance, we must learn and develop the behaviours that allow for our growth. Most successful athletes have experienced this and have seen that we can gain so much more than physical attributes. Because learning to develop our physical human performance is a manifestation of something bigger. The process of developement in general teaches us, about ourselves and about life, it shows us guiding principles. Because the weight on a barbell is absolute, as are our gymnastics capabilities, and our metcon scores. It is a truth, not an easy truth to uncover, but when we are open to see it for ourselves we see a challenge that confronts us. And we learn that we can live in avoidance of this challenge or accept it. Further, an athlete learns not only to embrace the challenge that struggle brings, but to embrace the truths that surround the personal growth necessary to our developement.
This brings us to Courage.
We learn that courage is our necessary response to challenge. An athlete learns to embrace challenge rather than avoid it. When confronted with challenge and our fight or flight response kicks in, the first thing to learn is that flight is generally the most comfortable and the least beneficial, but fighting abruptly will yield poor results. The second and hardest thing athletes learn is that fighting can happen in different ways. When faced with an opponent or a challenge, be it another human being or simply a challenging situation, we must realize that ‘fighting’ should include steps. Patiently pursuing the understanding of the situation and the challenge is the middle ground between fight and flight, if we take the necessary steps in a process to learn fully about the challenge and evaluate our response we can develop the courageous habit of facing challenge rather than reacting too it or running from it. Because reaction is linked to failure, where response is linked to learning, because when we are open to evaluating situations we are learning and absorbing. This way we can build on our past behaviours knowing which steps to take in the future. So, this becomes the third thing an athlete will learn, that failure and success are not grand or scarce, they are very insignificant and abundant; both will inevitably happen continually, in small steps travelling up and down. An athlete learns that courage itself is the biggest challenge of all: to face a challenge without knowing if we will being stepping up or down. What can help to initiate our steps in the face of the challenge and proceed to give us courage is knowing that whatever happens, we will gain experience and we will learn because we are open to it.
This brings us to Virtuosity.
We learn the courage to continually practice virtuosity. Virtuosity is a term usually given to world class artists that have seemingly perfected their craft. Many world class athletes who make an art of their sport through their proficiency in their attention to detail and technique can be known as virtuoso’s as well. Think of a gymnast, executing a flawless routine on the rings or the floor. This display of virtuosity requires the relentless pursuit of learning, it is a place just outside our comfort zone but close enough that we can endure it day in and out. It requires a tremendous focus and desire, it is the mental sweet spot, the zone, we are serious and focused but we are having fun. Directing our focus to the place that yields us the best results which come with the typical feelings of joy and frustration. But an athlete learns to block those feelings out because both are distraction. It is a place where success and failure are not even on our radar, it is the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and developement for the sake of knowledge, understanding, and developement.
This brings us to purpose.
We find our purpose through our ability to courageously challenge ourselves to practice virtuosity. It is not a paint by numbers, the above process is difficult to say the least, it is life teaching us about life. If we have built up fake walls, it will tear them down and expose our truth to ourselves, it will take our fears, our ego, our anxieties, and our weakness, and it will chisel away at them until they become usable. Until we realize how to gain success. But let’s define success for our purposes. As a coach who guides athletes, we should be viewing success as progression toward what gives us peace, and there in lies the athlete’s purpose. For instance, there are many people who look successful on the surface who have progressed in their lives, but have learned little and have no peace, this is not our definition of success. Internal peace is not comfort and it’s not happiness, it is a mind that is free to be focused and unclouded. Purpose gives us this chance to pursue with a free and clear mind.