Life is full of unexpected challenges; no matter how hard you’ve worked you cannot control everything. But when you spend too much energy being frustrated by things you cannot control, you’ll miss out on the good stuff. Although I am not the next Yohan Blake or Jessica Ennis, I like to see myself as a professional athlete. By the end of 2014 I had won 12 national titles, was 16th on the rolling-forward 800m world ranking and was training harder than ever.
“Train, eat, sleep, repeat; I did all I could and believed 2015 was going to be my year.”
Then I broke my ankle… An easy run in the forest, a misplaced step on the root of a tree and instead of preparing for the Athletics World Championships I was walking on crutches for 7 weeks. The initial frustration I felt was enormous, but I soon realised self-pity wasn’t going to speed up the healing process.
Your mindset is key
“With my broken ankle, I learned to enjoy the process of achieving something and not only focus on the achievement itself.”
I started with boring recovery exercises, hourly endurance sessions on the bike, but also had time to look at the possibilities that came with this situation; finally I could spend time with my friends and family, suspend my everlasting diet and help out some colleagues by working more hours.
When you apply a positive attitude in everyday life, you can deal with the situation if something unexpected happens. Excuses may bring comfort, but they won’t bring you forward! Keep your goal in mind and focus on the process.
“When your promotion isn’t approved, when your design isn’t picked or you’re buried in your work: Take a step back, take stock of the challenges ahead and learn from your experiences. Remember: The road to success isn’t smooth!”
View negatives as positives
Performing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is my ultimate goal. The international entry standard for 800m is 2:01.50 (a time I’ve run over 7 times in my life). Unfortunately the Dutch federation decided only to send athletes that can run 2:00.00, which means I have to run a personal best to make it to the Olympics. It’s frustrating, but I cannot change the Federation’s decision. All I do now is focus on training hard, being a better athlete than I’ve ever been and seeing this Dutch standard as a positive instead of a negative. The challenge lies in the fact that to have a shot at making it to the final I would have to run a 2.00.00 anyway.
With all the travelling, training camps in the sun and good times in exotic countries, the life of an athlete sounds appealing and it mostly is. Just like with all other things in life: As long as it gives you joy, keep doing it. Know that there can and will be setbacks.
“When the setbacks happen, let them serve as opportunities to re-evaluate and keep you and your team on their toes: The process is the goal, results will follow.”
You cannot create your whole future, but if you choose to work with your talent and tools at hand, at least you can shape it.
How have you come back from sporting or professional setbacks? I’d love to hear your experiences!
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