This week on a walk, I listened to one of my favourite podcasts by Liv Perez - Friend of a Friend. Once a month she chats with her best friend, Joe Holder, and they talk about anything from business to wellbeing to marathons and sustainability. Joe is a Nike Master Trainer, a modern wellness extraordinaire, and someone who I have gained so much inspiration from online.
In this particular episode, Joe touched on something that really struck a chord with me – playing the long game. I wanted to expand on this notion.
The idea of playing the long game is something I think you can really only understand with experience and perspective. When you're young, your vision can be pretty short-sighted. At 12 years old when I was coming through the ranks in diving, I only saw the next competition ahead of me. Yes, I dreamed of the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, but they were in a fantasy bubble in the future, not something super tangible at that time. Thankfully, along with a bit of luck, I had the guidance from my parents and some great coaches and mentors who taught me the value of being a 'smart athlete' which ultimately set me up for a long career.
When you do get to the latter half of your career, you look back with perspective on just how one thing can lead to another. Good or bad. Overtraining and ignoring injuries as a junior athlete can lead to chronic pain and career-ending problems. But in the same way, training consistently, and mapping out your goals, can lead to sustained success and longevity. That is just one example of playing the long game.
An old sports psychologist once told me an analogy that I will never forget, and I think it is very relevant today. He told me that setting a long term goal that feels daunting and out of reach is like standing at the bottom of a steep and long staircase. The distance between you at the bottom and your goal at the top seems so far. But each day, with intent and consistency towards your training, you will slowly find yourself climbing the staircase, one step at a time. A couple of weeks in, you might look back to see you've climbed 1/4 of the way, and your goal is creeping closer. Commitment to the long game certainly provides intense gratification when you can look back at how far you have come. Because down the track, those little steps you took each day, will lead you to within arm's length of the top of the staircase, and your long term goal. All of a sudden, it's not so unattainable. I have used this analogy in various aspects of my life, and it is something I come back to at the beginning of each competitive season.
Coming out of lockdown, coming back from injury, or starting a brand new job...whatever situation you are in, don't be frightened by the task ahead or your goals feeling out of reach. The beauty of playing the long game is that you can celebrate the small wins along the way, with the understanding that they are contributing to a positive step towards your goal. Even if at times you take 2 steps forward but one step back, you are still moving towards the top. Don't be discouraged by setbacks. Remember what you are ultimately shooting for, and get back on the horse.
Just remember, don't sacrifice the long term win for a short term gain. Your career, as an athlete or an employee, is a marathon, not a sprint. And the ones who come out on top are usually the ones playing the long game!
Til next week, Belle