Defining Success

In a World dominated by numbers, wins, losses, outcomes and at worst comparing ourselves to others, how should we define success?  Especially in endurance sport, where our finishing time is often used as the sole metric to define success.

It’s a natural thing to set a time goal for a race we want to do. It’s also natural to ask someone what time they did when they completed a certain event.  However, if time is our only way we define success then I believe we’re missing so much more to what I believe success looks like.

At a recent squad training session, I was coaching we had a new member join the group.  This person had not long completed our 6-week beginner course program and completed their first triathlon.  Post the course finishing we encourage people to keep training and set new goals and challenges.

At this training session this person was at the back of the group.  They were still working to their ability and potential, but others were going faster.  Straight away they fell into comparison mode and started to get upset about being at the back.  I said it made no difference where they were or where others were in comparison.

The question I put to them was, “are you doing your best here and now?”

To which they replied, “yes, but I feel like a failure being so slow compared to everyone else.”

I said, “great then you’re doing all you can, don’t worry about being at the back it makes no difference to me or to anyone else in the group. You’re not a failure. There is no failure here because you are doing your best tonight and I can tell your effort is there.”

In this instance if we were to define success on a person’s place in a group training session which is often the case it becomes a slippery slope.  Same with time, sure let’s use it to sometimes measure our progress but it’s only a small part of the equation for success.

So, what are the ways we should look at success in the context of endurance sport?

  1. Only compare ourselves to who we were – caring too much about comparing ourselves to others will kill your potential, harm your mental health and make you miserable. Look at how far you have come and what you have achieved not against what others have done or doing. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  2. The mirror test – the mirror never lies when you look in it. If you can look in the mirror after a race, a hard training session or any challenge and know deep inside you that you did not give up, then you have been successful in that instance regardless of the time or place.
  3. The commitment test – when you decided to commit to a goal were you all in? Or was one foot in one foot out in case you failed and thereby had an excuse? If you’re going to work towards something don’t be afraid to fail or not achieve your goals.  Go all in.
  4. Did you win the ultimate battle of you against you? At its heart endurance sport is a battle against oneself. The little voice in our head that says it’s okay to slow down, to stop and to give up.  Were you able to beat that voice and not give up, not slow down, or stop when it’s so easy to?  You will know whether you won that battle and all the excuses in the World will not hide the truth that lives inside you.

The hardest thing about those points is they are impossible to objectively measure.  Yet in my opinion that is what makes them valid.  The external measurements such as time, place, speed etc will only mean something if we know won the internal battles.  Those external metrics will be validated and achieved when we win the battle that exists within.




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.


  1. Grego on May 16, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Great article. I agree 100%.

  2. Jamie Herd on May 30, 2022 at 6:12 am

    Great Mark thank you. How can I get into line two. 🙂

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