I think my man Greg Kolodziejzyk makes a great point in his article.
Take is away Greg
Ironman triathlon, drowning rats and BOLD goals.
I learned a valuable lesson at the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii. That bit of wisdom is best summed up by a quote from Thomas Carlyle: “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”
Aside from simply finishing the race, I didn’t really have a goal. My challenge for the past four years has been to make it to Kona – to finish in the top 5 in my division at any Ironman qualifying race in North America and earn a slot to complete with the very best triathletes in the world. After seven Ironman races in four years, I had finally achieved that goal, and finished fourth at Ironman Arizona in April of 2006 with a time of 10 hours, 15 minutes. I was ecstatic – I had finally done it. I figured it out. I had qualified to compete head to head with the best athletes in the world at the Infamous Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii. Participating in the historic, exalted event in Hawaii was to be my reward.
But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” My reward was received way back in April when I succeeded in accomplishing my goal – the race in Hawaii itself was no reward. It was just a really long, brutally hot and painful 12 hour slog through 140.6 miles of desolate lava fields.
Why? Because I had no goal in Hawaii aside from simply finishing. And from the moment the cannon went off to signal the swim start at 7:00 am on Saturday morning in Kailua-Kona Bay, all I could think about was the finish line. That’s no way to do an Ironman.
Dr. Richter of Johns Hopkins Medical School carried out an experiment that attempted to measure the motivational effect of having a goal. The experiments involved placing rats into cylinders of water that were thirty inches deep by eight inches wide. After a short time, half of the rats were momentarily rescued by being lifted out of the cylinder for a few seconds, then put right back into the water. The other half were not. The group that was given hope swam for more than three days. The other rats drowned almost immediately.
The rats that knew there was a chance of being rescued again had a goal – to stay alive until the next rescue. The other group had no goal, so they just gave up. I think that’s kind of what happened to me in Kona on Saturday – I didn’t really have a goal, so I sort of just checked out. That’s a very painful way to race an Ironman. It makes for one VERY long, VERY difficult day!
I learned about the necessity of a worthy goal. We are motivated by bold challenges that are only slightly out of reach. Winning Ironman Hawaii wasn’t even in the realm of possible outcomes, and placing somewhere in the middle of the pack was the best I could hope for. After all, I was racing with the best Ironman triathletes in the world. I figured that just making it to the finish line would provide me with enough incentive to enjoy the epic event, but evidently, I need more than that.
It was an important lesson learned and a day that I will never forget.