The other day, I was relaxing and watching the Kona Ironman triathlon on television. I love watching this event, because it is so inspiring. The event itself is incredibly daunting. Participants have to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run, without a break. I have run a marathon before, and it was brutal enough by itself.
The race is divided into two groups—the professional athletes and amateur athletes. The professional race was exciting, but I think I enjoyed hearing the stories about the amateur athletes even more. My favorite stories were about the athletes who had to overcome huge obstacles in their life in order to complete the race.
I think the most inspiring story was about an athlete named Steve Walker. Steve had a progressive condition that caused him to lose his vision. At the time of the race, Steve had lost 97% of his vision and was legally blind. Yet here he was, completing one of the most grueling physical tests known to man.
He completed the race tethered to a training partner, whom he formed a special bond with during training. As they completed each leg of the race, I found myself cheering them on in my living room. I also felt more energy about the obstacles in my own life. If Steve could overcome blindness to complete the Kona Ironman Triathlon, certainly I could muster up the strength to deal with the problems I was facing in my work, relationships, and CrossFit.
When they interviewed Steve, he said something I think could be helpful as you face challenges in your own life. He said, “If your passion exceeds what you perceive to be an obstacle, you’re going to win every time.” I think there are two important parts of this message.
First, passion and energy is key. Life is difficult and full of challenges. To face and overcome the inevitable challenges in our lives, we need to bring our full selves—all the passion and energy we can muster. Steve had to bring all the passion and energy he had to stay consistent in his training and complete his race. What is getting in the way of you bringing your full self to the challenge you are facing?
Second, our perception of the obstacle we are facing is important. In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” It is not so much the objective size of the obstacle we are facing but rather our perception of it that matters. Many people would look at Steve’s obstacle (i.e., completing the Kona Ironman Triathlon while blind) and say, “Impossible!” Instead, Steve’s perception of the obstacle was that it could be done.
If the passion/energy side of the equation outweighs the perception of your obstacle, it’s a good bet that you will make progress toward your goal. But the opposite is also true. If the perception of your obstacle outweighs your passion/energy, you will likely get discouraged and quit. To reach your goal, you need to do one of two things: Ramp up your passion/energy, or reframe your perception of your obstacle. Either way, you need to shift the passion—perception equation.
Discussion: What is one obstacle you are facing in your life right now? Which side is larger—your passion/energy or your perception of the obstacle? What is one step you could take in order to shift the equation?