Below is a timely article from Houston University Coach, Steve Magness. Along with his training, I also enjoy a lot of his thoughts on life. It goes totally in line with our team motto of "The Journey". Please read and enjoy!
Coaching Corner: When Outcomes Define Success:
We live in a hypercompetitive world, where the game never truly ends. We can measure productivity in any myriad of ways and instantly compare ourselves to any number of individuals scattered across the world. No longer do you measure up against Johnny from high school or Jim in the cubicle next door; you are now in competition against practically everyone.
For humans who function off of comparison, this may initially boost our performance, but it's just as likely to be entirely maddening. As we've transitioned into competing in every aspect of life—from followers on twitter to "productivity" scores from our computer work to our health score spit out by our smart watch—the temptation is to treat life as we do sport, with the emphasis on getting faster and stronger, taking more wins, and then judging ourselves entirely by those parameters. By shifting how we judge ourselves, we've also shifted the story that we tell ourselves.
When it comes to sport, researchers have found that athletes adopt one of two kinds of narratives: a performance or a quest. A performance narrative occurs when the athlete prioritizes winning over other aspects of life. Performance comes first and foremost. Whether that is winning games, scoring goals, running faster, or making more money; the outcome is all that matters.
A quest narrative, on the other hand, emphasizes the potential growth from diverse experiences. It involves "individuals confronting their suffering, accepting the consequences, and striving to gain something positive from their experience." In other words, the emphasis isn't put on the outcome, but on the journey. Yes, the outcome still matters, but it becomes a signaling mechanism, not the be all end all.
Performance narratives are ingrained in us from a young age but they can lead to maladaptation when we encounter adversity. Because if performance is the sole judge, when failure occurs, people often register this not as failure at a specific task but failure at life. If an athlete has a quest narrative, the outcome becomes information, and the "failure" becomes something to understand and grow from, not a self-defining setback.
In Olympic swimmers, researchers found that as athletes matured in their careers, they tended to shift from a performance to a quest narrative. Early on in their career, outcomes were all that mattered, and they let their sport consume all aspects of their life. While one might think that their performance might suffer in the pool as they shifted their focus, the opposite occurred. For Olympic Swimmer Ryk Neethling, it made all the difference; "walking away gave me perspective...but for that fresh perspective, I may not have become an Olympic Champion."
As competition infiltrates every aspect of our life, there can be a temptation to embrace it, mistakenly thinking that we need to 'raise our game' in order to survive and thrive. The reality is that we might want to take a hint from Olympic swimmers: sometimes to reach the next level (and to enjoy what you do!), you've got to let go of the false idea that outcomes are all that matter.
Steve Magness - University of Houston CC and Track Coach.