2020 has been a year of turbulence, something we can all acknowledge. But, I think it is important for us to keep our minds clear and avoid building cases against ourselves and our own performance. As I write this in San Francisco, I look out of my window and see the orange glow of smoke filled air. I look at the AQI websites and see scores that are edging toward hazardous. Goodness me, on Wednesday daylight never came! It remained dark all day, anchored in thick, orange smoky air. It is horrible, and many of us find ourselves expressing wide sweeping questions: what more is 2020 going to deliver our way?
This sparked an important realization of a performance flaw many athletes are prone to fall into -stacking up issues or challenges into a mountain of woe. An athlete might have a tough race, then a series of flat tires in training, before their training partner moves out of town. All are frustrating, but completely unrelated. This doesn’t prevent many athletes weaving a story that everything is terrible, that they are underperforming and that their hopes and aspirations for key goals are under grave threat. They can find themselves losing confidence in themselves, and their journey, because they've mixed every obstacle or challenge into a finely concocted casserole of misery.
You likely don’t need me to tell you, but the smarter path for this athlete would be to isolate the challenges and navigate them one at a time. Treat them as individual challenges to learn from, and overcome them - whether it is race execution, equipment readiness, or setting up a new training environment to foster performance. You would likely encourage the athlete to avoid trying to tackle them all at once. Instead you'd ask them to prioritize, focus on the most important elements, and to remain stubbornly objective as they overcome.
It is the same for us all in these times. A pandemic has created havoc in personal lives and race schedules, and societal stress has added to the challenges. We can also add in the related impacts of election stress, home-schooling, and shifts in work-life behavior. But these challenges shouldn’t be stacked up and added to your broken fridge, fires on the West coast, hurricanes in Florida, you getting a parking ticket, or any other event of 2020. It may feel like the year is against you, but much of what is happening is simply something called life.
We have collectively faced major events this year, and their impact is large, but let's keep clear heads and foster our athlete spirit. Tackle each one as it comes, on its own, in priority order. Keep on going, and be happy in the knowledge that we are developing resilience, strength, and a huge toolbox of adaptability.
Myself? I am placing a ban on myself around ‘Urg, this 2020’. It isn’t a helpful thought. Care to join me?