... ... >“If at first you don’t succeed try and try again” - Mile27
May 122009

>All of us will set out to achieve something and for any number of reasons not succeed. Some of us will give up and decide it’s too hard, others will continue to try but never actually realise the goal and a select few will try again and eventually succeed in what they set out to do. What is the difference between the people who do and the people who don’t, and how can you make sure you are one of the people who do?

Failure is the key to success

One thought process that differs between the people who succeed and the people who don’t is how they view failure. Michael Jordan the American Basketball legend is quoted as saying “ I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

How has missing the game winning shot made him a better player? Successful people look at failure not as failure but as a learning experience, a chance to analyse what they did well and areas they can improve. So because they “failed” they have the chance to improve themselves to become even better. In this way “failure” becomes a very positive experience. Missing the game winning shot has driven Jordan to practice more and more so when the situation happens again he increases his chances of making that winning shot.

This approach works well when the reason for you not succeeding (I’m going to stop saying failure now as you only fail at something if you don’t even try) is purely down to you. Often the reason you didn’t succeed is not directly connected with anything within your control. This can be harder to deal with as there is nothing you can do that could control the situation so how can you prevent it happening again?

Never, ever give up

To illustrate the point I’d like to relate my own experience in trying to qualify for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships. I had a two year plan to achieve this – compete in the qualifying race in year one to get a feel for the race and what is required and then qualify in year 2. I gave up full time work so I could concentrate on training, gave up alcohol completely, gave up any form of a normal social life, was in bed by 9.30pm seven nights a week and up at 5am, ate a very low fat healthy diet, trained 25-30 hours per week and did everything I could to get my body into the best condition possible.

Year one of the plan went according to script and by the time I lined up to race in year 2 I was very confident I had done all that was required to qualify. However half way through the bike leg a bolt on my bike snapped in half causing a 45 minute mechanical delay ending my chances of qualifying.Undaunted I went back in year three only to be bitten by wasps 5 times the day before the race( I’m hypersensitive to insect bites),the result of which was to have me feeling as if my face was going numb , feeling dizzy and nauseous and seeing spots in front of my eyes half way through the race, consequently ending any chance of posting a good time. Year four I was back again and had a great race but missed out on qualifying as the qualifying times had improved due to an influx of overseas competitors. The time I did would have qualified me in every single race over the last 10 years except this one. Another year of training had me back for year five and finally I finished in a time that left no doubt that I would qualify.

Why did I keep going back and not give up? The biggest factors were passion, belief and persistence. I wanted to qualify more than I’d wanted anything else in my life and had the belief that I was good enough to achieve this. If you don’t have the passion and desire to achieve your goal you will never succeed. Every time I missed out on qualifying I re-assessed how important qualifying was to me and my belief in my own abilities and each time decided that the passion was even stronger than before. I knew that I had the ability so it was only a matter of time before it happened. If I hadn’t achieved it in the fifth year then I would have kept going back until I had.

So when for reasons beyond your control you don’t achieve the results you’re after assess how much you want to achieve your goal and why you want it. If it’s important to you then try again and again and again until you achieve it.

Bit off more than you can chew?

What about if you’re not even sure you can achieve your goal? Maybe you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? Highly ambitious goals that really challenge us are a means of really living life to the fullest. The sense of purpose, direction and ultimately, fulfilment in achieving these big goals is what life is really all about. It may be to run a marathon, to lose a large amount of weight, finish a triathlon, climb Mt Everest or just trek to base camp – whatever it is you’ll never feel more alive than when you’ve realised one of these types of goals.

But how do you get the belief you can achieve these goals if they are so ambitious? If you have the passion and you know why your goal is so important to you then you need to break these big goals down to small, manageable, believable chunks. If you want to run a marathon but have never run before then you obviously will have no evidence that you can run that far to feed your belief. Break it down and ask yourself – “Could I run for 5 minutes?”, if you can believe that then that’s a great start, 5 minutes becomes 10 minutes becomes 30 minutes etc. Small believable steps are vitally important to keep you on track.

Practice makes perfect or does it?

If you train hard and consistently and you don’t get the results you want then continuing to train the same way is even more unlikely to bring about the results you want. Practice makes you good at what you are practicing, if you want to be better or create more of a change then you need to change the way you practice (or train in this case).

Typically we do the same things in our training week in week out and wonder why we are not improving much. Compare it to learning a language, when you first start learning,n counting to 10 is an achievement but very quickly this becomes easy so we progress and count to 20 then 30 etc etc. It makes sense that you can’t become better at speaking a foreign language if all we do is count to te. We may be very good at counting to ten but that is not the goal. Why then do we think that training our body is different? Why do we assume that doing the same exercises in the gym will continue to bring about change? Why do we think by running the same distance and time will somehow makes us faster of be able to run for longer? It makes no sense at all. If you want to improve then you need to make your training program progressively more difficult.

Many people think that elite athletes find their training easy – as if the more training you do the easier everything gets. The reality is one of the reasons they are elite is every time training becomes easy they change it and make it harder forcing their bodies to continually adapt to the training.

Make sure you training is increasing in difficulty and complexity to ensure you continue to achieve the results you are after.

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