Do you ever overthink conversations before and after you have them? Do you arrive at appointments thirty minutes early to avoid being late? Steer clear of delegating because you fear others won’t meet your standards? I’ve been there. Perfectionism can unequivocally wear you out.
Thanks to the sport of triathlon, I am aware that the perfectionist mentality often leads to disappointment. The sport has helped me to keep my composure when failing or making mistakes, and has taught me to be more comfortable with less than perfect.
Let’s take swimming, for example. For the first year, I would often sit and stare into the pool at an early hour, dreading the drag and drudge and the fight that was inevitably ahead. But you can’t run away from swimming. It takes many hours of practice and old fashioned hard work to learn any new skill, and swimming is no different. You can’t let the days of gasping for air, slipping goggles, or losing your bearings in a flip turn scare you away. One day, my catch felt relaxed, and my pull felt strong. I was not yet the best swimmer, but I could do more than “just survive,” and actually look forward to my next meeting with the water.
Then there is life in the saddle. There are growing pains that come along with your first group rides, and rookie blunders to go through before mastering fluid, efficient pedal strokes.
Let’s face it, you’re probably going to falter in your new clipless pedals and lay down at least once for everyone to see. And you may or may not get some looks from your greasy chain “rookie marks” on the inside of your calves. But with persistence, much like swimming, techniques in cycling will begin to click into place. Those pedals will feel smooth under your feet, and the steepest climb can make you feel powerful, and ready for the next big ride.
Finally, we all know that running is very good at identifying weaknesses throughout our body. We’ve all tried running more to become a better runner, but we’ve all probably tried running less to become better runners as well! And remember the last time you hit the wall? It’s also very good at pointing out our mental weaknesses. The key is to celebrate the milestones of pounding the pavement, big and small. With running, there truly is always room for some kind of improvement. It shows us that just when you think you can’t go any longer, you often can.
No, the sport of triathlon is not perfect. It is not easy. It is an abstract of challenges, strengths and weaknesses that mold together and form a beautiful piece of work. It is a work of art that is completely unique to you, and thankfully, cannot be erased.