This week I was reminded of a major tenant I have in life which is: Don't Clutch the Compass.
Until recently I didn't have a name for this, but thanks to the eloquent Katie Den Ouden I now have a handy phrase.
I find myself doing this and I see it in my athletes all the time, so I thought I would share.
We all know the value of having a large goal out there in the future, the BHAG! The goal, the destination, the point of arrival, it matters. We all have them whether we say them out loud or not. I'm talking about the: win my age group, qualify for kona, win kona, make partner, land a big client, finish a memoir, make a million dollars, coach 200 athletes, kind of goals. Having that destination gives purpose and motivation to the daily tasks. It's exciting, and challenging!
Thank you Scrivle for that gem!
But there is a double edge sword here. On one hand, I love watching my athletes set a huge goal like nabbing a PR in a race, or qualifying for the big dance in Kona and then attaining that goal! So sweet! On the other hand I have watched people not hit their goals and get frustrated and down on themselves when they were actually making great progress. Goals are a double edge sword.
The way to ride the edge of the sword when it comes to Big Hairy Audacious Goals is to remember: "Don't Clutch the Compass." What this means is that you want to put your goal in your minds eye, and you want to keep the awareness that this is where you want to land.
Then you want to let go of how you are going to get there.
You want to remove dependence on the WAY and PROCESS that you take to get there, I also suggest putting yourself in the hands of a capable coach to craft the program, if it's athletic! Every once in awhile you want to dig out the compass and take a bearing and check in to make sure you are still heading in the right direction towards your goal. But what you want to stay away from is obsessively checking the compass every step of the way to make sure you never head a single inch off path.
I see this happen all the time with athletes. They are so fixated on the end point, the perfect path to take, the power, the heart rate, the aligning every one of life's details to add up to the ultimate personal success where rainbows abound, puppies are everywhere, and the Sound Of Music theme song is playing.
They clutch the compass in their hand, tapping on it every so often, and all the while, life and scenery, and the big picture is flying on by.
I see this in a few different ways:
- Many athletes constantly look at every training session as a litmus test to prove to themselves that they are on track towards their goals. When a session went poorly, they see it as being off path. This is clutching the compass.
- Many athletes refuse to diverge in any way shape or form from the most direct path to the goal. Sometimes going around a mountain is better than the direct path that leads up and over. This is clutching the compass.
- Most athletes who are chasing a BHAG utterly refuse to take a purposeful diversion off path just for the joy of it. They walk right past something amazing that would add to their life story because they are too focused on arriving. This is clutching the compass.
I have so been here. I see it in my training, and I see it in the ways I've chosen to grow my business. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the details...ahhh the about me page of the website is all messed up...when in reality, I'm here to help people cross the Ironman finish lines. The about me page is small beans, don't clutch the compass Sonja.
What I've learned through Ironman racing is that attaining the BHAG is really pretty cool, for about 48 hours. But what you will look back on in life and smile about, are the times that you put the compass in your pocket. The times where you took a bearing and headed off west, in search of yourself, and experiences that would take you one step closer to learning valuable lessons. Keeping a relaxed attitude and checking the compass only every so often feels really scary at first if you have any of the TypeA blood in you, but I promise that after a few dances with success you will start to feel more comfortable. If you don't put down the compass, and look around, you won't get any practice, and you'll just hang onto that thing like Tom Cruise in Castaway with Wilson.
Don't Clutch the Compass!
Or better yet, hire a travel guide, and enjoy the scenery!
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