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By Olivier Poirier-Leroy (Courtesy of SwimSwam)

It’s hard work chasing our goals. Not only does it require investing a lot of effort, with countless hours in and out of the pool, but it also requires us to suspend our fears. The fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking bad.

In actuality, doing the hard stuff, the challenging things, the stuff that builds champions looks a lot more painful than it actually is. What is easy, on the other hand, is falling into the lock-step of mediocrity with our swimming. When we do we end up stepping back. Keeping our dreams and goals tucked into the depths of our mind, never willing to swim out into the ether, never willing to risk anything.

To really see success with your swimming you need to be willing to open yourself to the possibility of failure. And for many, this is too frightening a prospect. The alternative – the safety of going with the flow, of simply getting along – is so much easier. Safer.

Here are 6 tips for swimming out into the rarefied air of champions this year—

1. Take a step, no matter how small. The first step is always going to be the hardest. It’s when the excuse-machine in your brain is firing on all cylinders, peppering you with reasons to not move forward. To stay static, to stay put, to stay safe. Don’t try to achieve a wholesale change in your routine off the bat – just make the first step, no matter how small or how insignificant it may seem in the context of your overall goal.

2. Chase the stuff that scares you with your training. It’s easy to dwell within the confines of what you are comfortable with at practice. Embracing difficulty and things that might otherwise scare you will show you how most of the things you fear – an increased workload, committing fully to your own success – actually turn out to be the things that end up freeing your abilities.

3. Embrace objective and constructive self-criticism. When you gloss over or lie to yourself about something once it becomes easier to do it again. Being acutely aware of where you are at currently – without attaching a good or bad label to it – helps you plan more realistically, and helps you to avoid getting demoralized by setting goals that don’t match up to your capabilities.

4. If you fall short, do it with your chin up. There is no shame in failing where others were too timid or scared to commit. Be proud of the fact that you made the conscious decision to take risk and attempt to deliver on the opportunities presented to you. Ignore the comments from the cheap seats, and don’t allow the things others say stop you from doing what comes next–

5. Bounce back with action, authority and armed with a lesson learned. When you get your nose bloodied, your first reaction might be to retreat. The negative thoughts in your head will start churning away again, pumping out variations of the “I told you that you couldn’t do this” at break-neck speed. Instead focus on the lesson that needs to be learned – what are you going to do differently this time around? – and bounce back fast and hard.

6. Doing the hard stuff is what thins the herd. Each swimmer in your group or on your team want to be successful. They want to be recognized for their talents and abilities. But they are afraid to show up early. Afraid to chase the most challenging interval. Afraid to risk looking like a “failure.” Afraid to try and not succeed in front of their friends, peers, and family.

Will you be willing to do the hard stuff that others are too scared to do?

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