As you’re digging into a new semester, you may find some of these points useful. I pondered for months what went wrong on November 20, 2011, when I DNF-ed my first Ironman race, and I came up with this (DNF stands for the dreaded “did not finish”):
1. Have realistic goals
As long as you do your personal best, that was a good day/week/semester. Before the race I had a race time goal; once I realized I would not make it, the ego took over and I arrogantly quit the race more than 3 hours before the cut-off time.
2. Always have a plan B
Life will deal you a bad hand now and then, some things will hit the fan occasionally, be ready to deal with it. In my case, after a year of smooth training, I hit several snags during the race. They completely caught me off guard, and I folded.
3. Always, always, always leave your worst enemy (that nagging inner voice) at home
If you tend to wrestle with that negative inner voice, do anything possible to re-train your mind. If you think positively, you are generating options and finding solutions; if you think negatively, you are counting obstacles and limitations. During the race I thought way too much about things that went wrong and psyched myself out of finishing it.
4. Keep your eyes on the prize
You will not like all your classes, you will not like all your teachers. But you can still be a great student at most, if not all times. You actually become a better student with a bad teacher (if you possess personal initiative). The prize is many times so far ahead that you can’t see it, but surely you can imagine it. During the race I completely forgot to keep just one clear thought in my mind: “By midnight, you will be an Ironman.”
5. Don’t compare yourself to others
The only person you should impress is the one you see in the mirror every morning. When I started the race, all I saw were people I presumed were much better triathletes than me. Today I know how wrong I was (on any given day I am better than many of them). If I hadn’t been comparing, the false negative thoughts and feelings wouldn’t have affected me.
6. Pain is temporary; bragging rights are forever
(This is not my original idea, it’s something I heard in several IM videos). Nothing in this school was intended to crush you but to make you better and stronger. At the same time it was not designed to be easy. On a lighter note, Chuck Norris never went to college, so draw your own conclusion: Who’s a tough guy/gal here? (Hint: YOU ARE)