Why are you doing it?
I have read a lot recently around the topic of direction, purpose and how finding your ‘why’ is so important, I couldn’t agree more. Have you ever taken the time out of your day to sit back and just think, think about what you do that makes you feel happy, what makes you say “I have had a great day today”? I have been on one hell of a ride over these past few months (haven’t we all…) though it is the small things that have made it an en enjoyable experience, enjoying the hard times and having the belief that things will work out just how you want them to. Life is not often as easy as that, we all have to face the inevitable difficulties, which ultimately shape us as people and strengthen us. I have experienced this first hand. I was chatting to a friend of mine last night about our last 12 months; I said “if you had told me two years ago that this would all happen in the space of eight months I would have laughed in your face, whilst not believing you”.
Despite all the difficulties I faced, I genuinely wouldn’t change one bit of it. Let’s use athletics as an example: I was arguably in the shape of my life on the track but mentally I was a million miles away, I didn’t want to even go to a track… but I persisted – as we athletes do. I have mentioned before the importance of doing things because you enjoy them and I stand by that every day. Though we as humans are so good at giving advice to others and not following it ourselves, I was exhibit A in this situation. I would say I am quite good at talking and giving advice, yet I was the one going through the mess.
Looking back, it is now so clear. I had lost touch with my own “why” and purpose, the things I loved about sport growing up, which ultimately had me hooked were replaced by ulterior motives such as performing well and ‘being professional’. These are both things that, to me, never really mattered before. As you may or may not know, I was pretty good as a junior (wow, that makes me sound old) and was also a bit of a social butterfly; it was the social aspects that inspired me to do better in sport, this may sound strange to you. I was driven to do well so that I didn’t miss out on selection for competitions because I knew how good the social aspects would be, I couldn’t miss out and see all my friends have fun without me. Fear of missing out (FOMO), is very common for extroverts, especially in sport due to the additional benefits which often come with these events. Long story short, it is very evident I did sport for the social aspects rather than those performance-related ones, as they began to swap places it drastically went downhill. Regardless of the reasons why you do something, don’t forget them or become blinded by other things.
Which leads me here. After seeing Holly Bradshaw talk about the importance of remembering why you started, it lead me to think (this happens a lot to me these days) about why I am doing something – in this case, athletics. I was stood in the kitchen cooking, scrolling as my rice was cooking, then I saw this tweet from Holly, I haven’t read something as relatable to myself in a long long time. I was so glad it wasn’t just me who felt this way, it never is. We just need to talk more in order for others to know this.
“No matter how successful you become, getting too far away from why you started sport in the first place, could end in resentment, burnout and poor mental health. Focus on your values and what matters to you, no one else.”
Holly Bradshaw, National Pole Vault Record Holder
My first block start in 16 months (ironically, probably my best ever).
I am back training again, I have been since October, despite ‘self-operating’ the months of January through March – in other words, I did jack ****. I would go as far as saying I am in as good physical shape as ever – more importantly, I am in good mental shape – which to me is crazy to think. I am training for the fun of it, currently, I have no intentions of competing any time soon and I am so happy with that. My priorities are having fun, enjoyment, socialising and de-stressing – the rest will come. Too often, in this sport especially, people get caught up with pressure, expectation and forget why they started, what they enjoy most about it. Too often you see people who look like they just don’t want to be there, I was one of them, the fun being sucked out of them by various factors or even themselves.
I have been training with two of my best friends, Jessie Tappin and Dan Putnam, we have so much fun and have the perfect balance (another thing I feel so passionately about regarding athletes). Despite doing it recreationally, I still push myself and work hard, though why I do it isn’t just for me, I am helping others to be the best and happiest they can be – that gives me my ‘why’, not just in athletics but in all that I do.
(For context, the above video (6th May 2021) was the final rep of 3 x start to hurdle 8 despite not having run from blocks to hurdle 1 since ~July 2019 (pre-session nerves/excitement were real). Kind of happy with that to be fair, all three reps within 0.3s too which was cool. Stick the volume on if you fancy a laugh, could say it was a tad windy down the back straight).
So please, take a step back to think about your ‘why’, why did you start? Why are you still doing it?
Don’t forget that.