Progress Not Perfection

AS HUMAN BEINGS WE’RE ALL FLAWED, WE ALL HAVE BATTLES AND CHALLENGES WE NEED TO OVERCOME. UNFORTUNATELY, ONE OF THE DOWNSIDES OF TRIATHLON CAN BE A QUEST FOR PERFECTION BOTH DURING TRAINING AND RACING. PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ACHIEVE; IT SHOULD NEVER BE A GOAL.

Leading into a major triathlon race, thoughts of attaining perfection are only going to have an adverse effect on your race day performance. What we should be aiming for is progress, not perfection. As long as we have positive forward progress in training, we should feel comfortable that we are ready.

For age group triathletes, there is far too much outside of training which requires our attention and focus. Whether it be family, work or other life commitments, sometimes our training will be compromised. This is OK and completely normal. I certainly find I race best when I have a balance in life and when I’m not singularly focused on a triathlon race. Once the race is over I am still a husband, father, son, brother, friend, and coach. In fact, I am all of those before I am triathlete. That doesn’t mean I don’t give it my absolute best in training and racing, but I have long realised a quest for perfection is a quest that is doomed.

Many triathletes, being the successful people they are, often struggle with this concept. I can guarantee that they will never race to their potential as a result.I have always been incredibly hard on myself and hold myself to a high standard. Once I decide to commit to something I give it my all. The reason being that I don’t want to live a life of regret.

I don’t want to end this life having wondered whether I could have achieved something . I like to challenge myself and so if something gets me excited or inspired then I like to give it me best.

However I have also learnt that during that process I can expect too much of myself. I’ll often push myself to the point of exhaustion and then realise I should have allowed for more rest and not been so hard on myself.

It has only been in the last few years of my life where I have learnt that it is okay to make mistakes, have a rest and not aim for perfection during the journey. Seems like I am finally learning something as I approach 50 years old!

As I approach my latest challenge in life, as the Lead Performance Coach of Triathlon Scotland, this is a mantra I am living by daily. Every day I aim to make progress and not let my natural state of wanting everything to be perfect to second guess me.It is being in this mindset of chasing perfection rather than progress that I believe the reason many people give up. For me I don’t give up (I’m very stubborn) but I get frustrated at not achieving more. So I am not at my optimal mindset for long term success.

When I look back at my failures or when things didn’t work out like I hoped I have come to realise it is not from a lack of desire or work ethic but rather a mindset of chasing perfection.

And when you expect perfection you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It becomes an unrealistic goal and so in effect you sabotage your own success. You become disillusioned when things don’t work out, you can’t look at a setback with a balanced view and you can’t understand why it hasn’t worked out.

I’m working hard, I’m trying my best so why aren’t I getting the results I want. Well if you’re wired like me and chasing perfection then you’re forgetting that it is not perfection but rather progress that we’re after.

With a mindset of progress not perfection you come to realise there will be mistakes, setbacks and doubts. And as long as you stay in that mindset of accepting that it is normal with progress then you will be far more likely to achieve your triathlon race goals.

Read more about how to change your perceptions of failure and looking for the positives in your results.

triathlon race goals progress not perfection

About Mark

Mark is one of Australia's most experienced and knowledgeable triathlon coaches. With over 25 years experience coaching at all levels from kids, youth, adult and elite professional athletes across the World. He loves seeing people change their lives through triathlon.

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