Olympic Trials is fast approaching. Training winds down. Energy levels exceed normal levels. Your body starts to feel stronger. With all these reactions unfolding, there is time for thought.
My mind normally would be racing through all the possibilities that could occur. But for now and for this week, I’ve started to question again who this is all for. Many successful athletes have said that the success was not for them, that it was for someone else. Although that may appear heroic or saintly, I believe it is either an untruth or a deep misunderstanding of why that person is involved in their sport or what they were doing to be successful.
Two years ago, I deeply considered ending my swimming career prematurely. I had disagreed with my coaches, someone I loved greatly was dying and I was unhappy. It was probably the darkest time of my life. I was ready to give up my dream and my passion all in that one moment.
This dark time gave me time to think about why I was in the position I was in. I knew I loved the sport of swimming and everything that went with it – the thrill of competition, the community and people within the sport. But I realized that I had started to swim for other people, and had started to believe that I was doing this for someone else or some type of organization, to make them happy.
It was at this time that my father sent me an article to read. The article was about the successful kids within tough school environments. They didn’t look at the kids along the line of the graph – they didn’t look for patterns – they looked at the anomalies. These anomalies were the highly successful students within these rough schools. They talked to these kids and to their surprise they realized that these kids were extremely and inherently happy. Their happiness brought them success.
This article illuminated the problem I faced. I had forgot to focus on my happiness. I had forgotten that my happiness was the driver to my success. But most importantly, I had forgotten why I was doing all this in the first place. I was doing this for me and not anyone else, to pursue and fight for my dream. Now, people may read this and think – “well that’s selfish.” It is not. I am forever grateful to the people who have assisted me throughout my journey, and whatever success I have will be something that they feel too.
That day changed my attitude and I started doing things for myself. I focused on my happiness first. And I became happier. And success followed. As Olympic Trials approaches, I know why I have put myself through all the hours of blood, sweat and tears. I have done it for myself.
The article my father sent had a poignant ending and one I want to share. An ending that still speaks to me today, one that I will always remember…
Success won’t bring you Happiness, Happiness will bring you Success.