On success

Success is an interest concept.

It’s easy to think of success in terms of specific, measurable goals; the achievement of things that can be photographed, or documented; for example, the completion of a triathlon, or passing an exam – both very current themes in my life at the moment.

More recently I’ve been considering the idea of success in a more abstract way – the achievement of things I perhaps didn’t even realise were goals, or that were implied in some of the more concrete goals I set for myself.

An example: I’ve taken a number of exams in the last 12 months, and I’ve (so far – more results to come on Friday…) managed to get pretty good grades.  But what I don’t always give myself credit for is the success I’ve achieved in studying the course at all; in making time and balancing priorities to achieve this not-insignificant aim of completing the course and getting my qualification.

I spent some time thinking about this concept as I cycled back from a lovely lunch with my coursemates this evening.  We’ve all done incredibly well to get where we are, and I don’t think we should neglect to pat ourselves on the back for these small, hidden victories.

Why is this relevant to my triathlon?  Mostly, it’s tied up in the idea of failure, of which there is a longer post to come shortly – I wanted to get this out first, because my attitude towards failure and success most recently has been markedly different to how I’ve approached them before, in a positive way.  But it’s also about considering what my measure of success will be.

Finishing the triathlon in a good time will obviously be a success – as will finishing it at all, even if I place last.  It’s also important for me to remember that entering it at all, and training for it, is worthy of some credit.  In just the last few months, my fitness and stamina have improved, and the attitude to physical activity has become less begrudging and more – dare I say it – enthusiastic about moving about and ‘doing quick’.

The training has also taught me more about myself – my motivation and how it works (and fails); what I enjoy and what I really don’t (running!); what my body can do and what it needs to be happy.  ‘Learning more about myself’ wasn’t a goal I had in mind when I applied for the triathlon (goodness only know what was, frankly, but there you go), but it is nevertheless a hidden purpose of my participation, and something in which I have achieved some success.

I think my biggest take-away from this process will be that I am ‘not shit’ at sport-related things.  I am not going to be the best – but that’s fine, I’ll leave that to the Olympians and Paralympians – but I can be ‘alright’, and maybe even ‘good’.  For someone picked last in games, I’d say that’s a pretty successful outcome.

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