Efforts & Outcomes
I am writing this at 2:36 a.m. for two reasons: 1. I am too hopped up on cold medicine to sleep and 2. When I have too many thoughts swirling around in my head I have to just get up and put them down on paper (figuratively) to make sense of them all. The biggest thing on my brain is that it is officially race week. In one week from today, I will participate in my first half-Ironman--something that I have been working my 49-year-old ass off toward for the past 6-7 months. So, as Murphy’s law dictates, things will inevitably start to go wrong in my world right about now. For starters? I have a terrible respiratory infection (hence the medication) that has put a hold on any more swimming (or much else) this week. Then there are a couple of frustrating and confusing personal and professional situations I’ve been struggling with that are taking up way too much of my time and energy. How silly of me to think this last week would be all smooth sailing--lol!
So, as I try to stay focused and look ahead to Sunday, I am reminded of something I frequently say to the riders in my cycle classes: “You are in control of your effort, and your outcome.” What I mean by that is the effort you put into the class by adding resistance or picking up speed will have a direct effect on your outcome in terms of calories burned, heart rate, and your overall fitness level. But as I lie awake tonight, I realize that outside the context of a cycle or fitness studio, that statement is only partially true. Of course in life you are in complete control of your effort---no one can do the work for you----but the outcome is a whole different story. Why? Because of the variables you don’t see coming. You can control how hard you work but you can’t control whether or not your boss chooses you or someone else for a promotion. You can control how hard you train for an event, but you can’t control the pop up storm that cancels the event, or the head cold that keeps you from performing at your best. You can control the effort you put into your relationships, but you can’t control the effort other people put into their relationships with you. Those outcomes are left to chance, or fate, or divine intervention--whatever you want to call it.
On the surface that all sounds really discouraging--but if you look a little deeper, you realize that effort is really what it's all about. Effort is what builds character and makes us stronger so that we can handle outcomes that are not what we expected. Effort shows us what we are made of. Nothing in life worth doing, having, or holding onto comes easily--it requires you to dig deep and commit. If you know you have done the work and given your best effort, then you can look at any outcome--even the disappointing ones---with no regrets.
I recently read the book, “Find A Way,” by Diana Nyad, a marathon swimmer who, after four failed attempts, swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. The training and preparation she went through each time, only to fall short of her goal due to weather, jellyfish stings, and other unpredictable elements, was heart wrenching and she talks about journey versus destination. She says that even when the destination wasn’t achieved, each journey was worthwhile because of what it taught her about herself. She didn’t hold back on her efforts--she gave her all each and every time with the full expectation of making it across. So while she may have been disappointed on the first four tries, she had no regrets and she had a new takeaway from each experience. The effort was worth it each time--even though the desired outcome took years.
Next Sunday I have one goal, and it’s the same one that I apply to life in general: don’t stop moving forward. I don’t care about stats or competing with anyone other than myself. I know I have put in the effort, and while I can’t guarantee the outcome, I CAN guarantee that I will take it stroke by stroke, step by step, and mille by mile until I’ve got 70.3 of them behind me.