8/6/14

Lower your expectations to succeed


I've never been good at not dreaming big. It's just not my style. I love having a goal to work hard for, that requires months of hard work, patience and dedication. 

I realize that with big goals comes the chance of big disappointment. However, regardless if I meet a goal or not, it's knowing that I made the commitment to try that counts at the end. 

It's really hard to regret trying something. 
But it's really easy to regret not getting started for fear of failure or disappointment.

The other day on the news I heard about the secret to happiness. Low expectations. 
Lowering expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations. 

How true is this you ask?   

When was the last time you felt under-prepared for something (ex. project, race, talk, trip) and the outcome turned out better than expected?
When you did succeed, did you find yourself happier at the end than when you started?

Or, when was the last time you thought that you had no energy for a workout or that you wouldn't be able to conquer your "hard" main set and you surprised yourself and ended up having a kick-butt workout? It's really hard to regret that workout, the one that you expected to have no energy for. 

There are many scenarios that I could give, relating to diet, training and life that you may be able to identify with and I think that the message is true that our mood is greatly affected on our expectations. And this can be positive and negative depending on how your thought-process works in life situations. 

Over the past year, I have thought about the race when I would get to race with my current level of fitness to try to qualify for the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. That race is quickly approaching and in 31 days, I will race 140.6 miles alongside tough competition in the 30-34 female age group and try to earn my Kona spot. If we are lucky, there will be three slots in the 30-34 age group but I do not expect there to be more than two. Perhaps we can just plan on two and then if there are three, the athlete who places third in the age group will be really really happy!

Certainly, these are high expectations to set for oneself, especially with trying to balance training for my 9th Ironman (after just racing my 8th IM on June 28th) with the rest of life. 

But despite my race day goals being quite lofty and high, my approach to training over this past year has been very enjoyable as my expectations for my fitness are kept very realistic and manageable. I've kept my focus on small progress over time. I've never tried to perform a workout so epic that I could not recover from it. I've never given myself a workout that was too hard that I couldn't gain something from it. However, in order to keep myself moving forward so that I can be a contend or for a Kona spot on race day, there have been workouts, placed strategically in my weekly training schedule that have allowed me to stretch to the top of my comfort zone.

One big downfall of hard working athletes is trying to expect more out of yourself than you are capable for the mere fact that you are comparing yourself to someone else. 

Someone else is training longer, harder and faster than you right now. 
So what. 

*Every day when you wake up early to train (or finish your day with a workout) make the workout be specific to your goals and needs. You should finish the workout feeling better than when you started.

*Find a way to be a better athlete today than you were yesterday. It may not be necessary for you to push harder or longer but instead, dial in your nutrition, do a better warm-up, recover better or sleep longer. 

*Don't compare your training, body or life with someone else. If you are inspired by someone else, she/he should motivate you to train smarter, not always to train harder. 

*Give yourself time to progress. Expect enough out of yourself that you feel challenged but not on the verge of mental and physical breakdown. 

*Manage your time. We all have the number of hours in a day, it's how you use them that counts. Use your time wisely so that you achieve your own definition of balance. Don't just fit in training when you have free time and don't compromise life just to squeeze in training. Every athlete has a certain number of hours that can be dedicated to quality training so be honest with yourself as to the time you can  commit to training smart and don't worry about what other athletes are doing with their time. 

*There are many paths to lead to the same final destination. Enjoy your journey.  If you expect that there is only one way to eat, train and live, you will constantly find yourself disappointed. Discover what works for you by thinking of your personal health, fitness and life goals (short and long term). You may think that everyone is doing more and better than you but there are probably plenty of people who are doing less and doing just fine. 

*Your journey to personal growth and success is dependent how you manage your expectations. Do not demand so much out of yourself that you break and do not settle of mediocre just because you feel you are not good enough. I believe in you! 

Perhaps we do not need to live life with low expectations all the time but maybe sometimes it is good to expect just enough out of yourself that you can work hard but if you do achieve something better than you believed to happen, it will be even more exciting than planned. Or in other words, if you are living with extremely high expectations that are completely out of your reach, just lower your elevated expectations just a bit so that your new expectations are more realistic to reach your goals.  

But maybe, just maybe, the key to happiness and success is not making expectations for yourself (and comparing yourself to others) just to be happy but instead, living in a way that makes you truly happy.