Forget About Achieving
By Jacob Fahl https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobfahl
You’re reading this article because you already have a fascination or an involvement in sports either as a recreation hobby or something more permanent in your life. For each of us, sports and being competitive is natural and something we love to do. I love to compete; I love the challenge; the grind of getting better, learning something new, and just plain working hard. It ignites my soul and I love how competing makes me feel. I’m sure a lot of you share the same sentiment. The joy of achieving, of winning, of crossing the finish line is like no other. Sometimes it can be a relief (I’m sure felt by many after a marathon), a sense of appreciation, complete bliss or just freaking losing your mind. The love of the game or the love of sports propels us to achieve. This same fuel carries over to our personal and professional lives as well. In most instances we desire to be rich in our experiences, successful in our relationships and careers and even win the game of Chutes and Ladders with our kids (why should we take it easy on them, right!).
As an athlete and into my young adult stages of my life I was so intent on winning and working towards achievement. I never really stopped to consider why I was driven to win. I pursued an end that I thought would lead to something in the realm of satisfaction or accomplishment or happiness. I had some good success in college and I’ve done relatively ok from my standards in my career. I was inducted into the Hall of Honor at my college a few years ago and it was at that time that I really stopped to consider what “success” really meant and why I played and competed in the game I loved. The way we tend to frame success and look at successful people is built on what has happened in the past and does not determine success in the future. We must acknowledge that success is very personal; what the average person considers success can be dramatically different from what a so-called successful person might think. To me, achievements, whether its money, wins, records, or status, doesn’t really matter by themselves or to the individual that achieves. The achievements are only worthy if they propel the achiever and others to a higher state of consciousness and action. The higher state being defined as the responsibility and accountability to improve one’s capacity (to love, learn and put knowledge to action). Now my competitive drive will always be there and I’m conscious of that. I’m no longer pursuing a professional sports career but I’m keenly aware of the benefits exercise and competition in sports has for each individual in their lives, professionally, spiritually, and personally. There are many benefits to exercise and you can read any health magazine article about the attributes being active has; promotes feelings of well-being, calmness, energizes your spirit, helps with handling stress, creates chemical positive changes in the brain and our nervous system, etc. However, the one issue I want to bring into clear focus is the benefits of pushing our limits through exercise and being competitive within ourselves. This, in the end, becomes the why behind my actions and thoughts and I’m hoping you can relate and inch forward to understand your own why.
In competitive sports we learn how to play the game, how to play with others, be a team and we learn skills that help us on the court/field/arena. In business too, we learn how to play the game, how to play with others and learn what skills will better help us do our jobs. The thing I’ve found though, either through reading or through my own experience, is that independent of the skills we attain in our fields of interest we must have something that sustains our spirits and keeps our attention focused on the pursuit of a worthy ideal. In order to sustain, we need endurance; in order to have endurance, we need conditioning. We need to condition our minds and bodies for the challenge and pursuit that will last a lifetime, because without conditioning we’re easily susceptible to changes in the world or influences upon us. There are challenges and urgent needs that are thrust upon us every day and no one is immune from these experiences; sick kids, didn’t make the sale, tired from not enough sleep, flight gets cancelled, you feel ‘stuck’, or even more positive influences like your kid gets into the college she dreamed of, you reached a certain status within your company, you found a $20 bill on the sidewalk. These are all influences upon us and it’s our individual perspective on whether we deem them as bad or good, supporting us or against us. Whether or not they are good or bad doesn’t’ matter. We must condition ourselves to repel the influences and stay the course. If your performance is swayed because of external influences then you’re susceptible to harm. We must condition ourselves to fight these influences upon our minds and bodies.
To be able to deal with any circumstance or situation takes skill and awareness. Conditioning oneself is a skill and throughout the weeks, months and years of our lives there are opportunities when we are distressed and face a predicament. Handling these situations with calm, clear and thoughtful actions is crucial to not only success but avoiding pitfalls that could damage relationships, your career and everything you’ve worked for. Well, how do you prepare yourself to handle these challenges appropriately? You practice…right? Well, how and what do you practice? The best way to practice is by physical conditioning in the method of exercise and pushing your limits. No matter what type of physical condition we are in we all have limits and we all feel some ‘pain’ (tiredness, soreness, sickness, laziness, real pain) at some point. In our physical exercise we can practice pushing through these limits while maintaining a conscious and focused mind. Exercise is hard and being able to do hard things is beneficial to your success. Getting into a routine of this practice will enable you to increase your conditioning and your capacity to handle any situation (good or bad). There’s a path to a better society and a more capable human experience (success). And that’s through exercise and pushing our limits. This is the beginning of your consciousness in pursuing a worthy ideal and understanding your own why. Instead of waiting until you get knocked down, knock yourself down a few times and practice getting back up. We shall condition ourselves and not seek the right conditions (external environment) but stay headstrong in our pursuits of something worthwhile. Achievements are momentary and do not last forever. To sustain our spirits and keep the focus where it needs to be we need to compete routinely within ourselves, pushing our limits and awareness. Being successful is a state of mind for the individual. Being thought of as successful shouldn’t matter because you don’t need the approval from someone else. Dive deep within to find your own success and what that means specifically to you. You can handle anything that comes your way, but it takes practice. Train early in the morning when the world is quieter. Start the day off with focus and doing something difficult. Like Ernest Henley poetically declares, “you are the captain of your soul.” Just steer the ship!