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Navigating Challenges Part I

If you’re chasing any type of goal worth pursuing, you’re going to run into challenges. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The determining factor as to whether you’ll accomplish your goal is your ability to successfully navigate these challenges as they arise. While every challenge will require a specific set of solutions, there are a set of basic strategies that will help you increase the chances that you’ll move past any setback as quickly as you can. Some of these strategies deal with the mindsets you’ll need to take to continue to persevere, while others will deal with specific actions you can take to ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible, while also ensuring that you stay on track in the future.

Know they’re coming. The best way to navigate challenges is to expect them. Many people give up their goals when they experience the first real challenge. They think it ‘must not be for them’, so they give up. Because they’re not expecting any challenges, most people get frustrated to the point where they can’t see solutions, even solutions that are simple and obvious. If you’re unable to find solutions, you’re not going to make progress.

If you know challenges are headed your way, you’re much more likely to be psychologically prepared for the struggle. While you still may still be frustrated, you won’t be surprised and that will increase the odds that you’ll persevere. You know that it’s ‘normal’ and in no way reflects your ability to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. Psychological preparation allows you to follow all of the strategies outlined below which will ultimately allow you to get back on track.

Beyond addressing the issue of dealing with the frustration, you can prepare for the process of overcoming challenges by having an awareness of what you might do in the event of a setback. If it’s a technical issue, who will you rely on? If it’s a training issue, who will you rely on? If you it’s a medical issue, do you have a doctor? Having an informal team in place will make figuring out what to do much simpler.

Consider what strategies you might use. Pay attention to the experiences of fellow swimmers when they’re going through setbacks. Rather than simply being glad it’s them and not you, try to learn from their experiences so you can be a little wiser when it inevitably is you. Consider all of the strategies below. While they may make sense conceptually, how would you apply them to specific situations you might face? A general awareness of a game plan will make it much more likely that you achieve the outcome you desire.

Take a step back. Before you spring into action and do everything you can to address a problem, take a step back to assess what’s really going on with your challenge. Is it a technical problem? Is it a training problem? Is it a lifestyle problem? Is it something else? Get some perspective from those you trust. The best way to never solve the problem is to fail to accurately identify exactly what is going on. If you don’t take the time identify the real problem with the help of others, it’s going to be difficult to do this.

When you’re initially dealing with a setback, you’re going to be experiencing a series of negative emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, and more. As I am sure you know from various life experiences, that’s not the best framework for making good decisions. Reacting emotionally without taking a logical look at the situation is going to lead decisions that will make the problem worse. Taking a step back allows you to shift away from your negative emotions before you make important decisions. It might only be a few hours or a few days depending on the situation.

Beyond re-assessing the approach you’re taking and plan to use, ‘taking a step back’ also applies to your general approach to training. In most cases, setbacks arise from doing too much, not doing too little. Simply stepping back your approach to your practices will allow you to make significant progress towards getting back on track. Perform less volume, use less intensity, or train less often. Any of these strategies will serve to allow for rest and recovery, and rest and recovery tend to solve a lot of training problems.

Keep moving. When experiencing a setback that doesn’t allow them to complete their normal training, many individuals will simply stop training. Their thought process is ‘if I can’t do it 100%, what’s the point?’. This is the opposite of the attitude that you want to take. Taking this approach is a guaranteed way to completely reverse any progress you’ve made. Are there situations where this is impossible? Sure. I imagine if you’re hospitalized there will be limitations. However, as soon as you’re able, you can start the process of re-developing your fitness. While it may be very little at first, you can keep moving. This is a much better than simply waiting until you can return to normal training.

Any sort of time in the water is going to speed the transition back to normal training. Any type of physical activity is going to beneficial as compared to simply abandoning all movement. Setbacks tend not to last as long as we expect, and this is particularly true when you keep moving. If you’re able to do so, you’ll find that it takes much less time to return to previous levels of performance, and even surpass them. However, this only happens if you’re able to keep moving. Otherwise, it can take much longer to get back to where you were.

If you're struggling, give these options a shot.

We'll pick up with more strategies next time.


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