Yesterday my daughter Sunshine and I went for a hike. While walking, she noticed this tree:
If you can’t tell, it appears that a rock was wedged between the branch and the trunk. That really isn’t all that unusual. OK. It kind of is. But, what really caught her eye was that the tree had begun to grow around the rock. The tree had decided to absorb its obstacle rather than allow that obstacle to stop its growth – to impede its forward motion. As we talked about it I said, “kind of a metaphor for life.” My daughter looked at me confused, and instead of explaining right away, I let her sit with it for a minute.
As we continued on our journey, she suddenly stopped and said, “it means that no matter what gets in our way we keep moving forward and growing! Right?” I was very proud of her 10-year-old mind for figuring that out and for seeing that there are going to be obstacles in our lives and that no matter what, we have to keep moving forward…keep growing.
So, what does this have to do with sport? Well, everything. During training or an event, obstacles are thrown in front of athletes (pro and novice) every so often. Sometimes the obstacle is self-made and sometimes the obstacle is completely out of anyone’s control. But what is important about obstacles, whether in life or in sport, is all about how you respond to them.
For me, sometimes that response is immediate and positive. I readjust in the moment, correcting what needs to be corrected and move forward. Sometimes the response is immediate and negative, often resulting in self-deprecation, blaming myself for not being prepared for said obstacle, or telling myself I can’t ever conquer it. But even in those moments of self-doubt, I move forward – slowly (and sometimes while berating myself) but surely, I move forward.
In my sport, one of the things I am proud of is that I don’t quit. I move forward. As I struggled with an obstacle (horrible cramping) during my last half-Ironman, I remember saying to one of the spectators cheering me on, “I may be moving slowly, but I am going in the right direction.”
How I deal with obstacles, in life and sport, continues to grow. I have to say that I think I am getting better with obstacles – even my biggest obstacle…myself. As I continue to grow and “Tri” to make a difference in my life and my daughter’s life, I will channel the strength of that tree that was stronger than its obstacle and absorbed it, making the tree that much stronger.