The picture accompanying this post is a selfie taken before my swim races last Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I swam in my first Master’s swim meet—the first swim meet since my sophomore year in high school. Why?
Don’t we profess to make our students lifelong learners? Don’t we preach accountability, discipline, and growth? In many IB programs, for example, teachers are encouraged to set goals along their students like learning to play a musical instrument. I’ve struggled with what that looks like in my adult life. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve found the notion of challenging myself leads me to become a lifelong learner.
Without a goal, my efforts usually fail. If I decide to run to get into shape, that will work for a bit. But I usually hit a plateau after a few weeks and without a definite goal (i.e. a race) in mind, I succumb to the nagging injuries or ennui and move on. But if I set a goal of a race, I’m able to keep pushing and hold myself accountable, develop discipline, and grow. In 2015, I was able to run a marathon for the first time in 15 years. Last fall, I ran a half marathon and ran faster than I had 10 years before.
And so now I’m swimming. I was a swim coach for a few years and still remember how to write a workout and teach the strokes. But I was never very good at swimming. In Masters swimming the pool of competitors shrinks and thus your slow times aren’t quite as slow anymore. And the goal (to swim in a meet) has been enough to push me through tough workouts and thus I was able to accomplish something I never thought possible—namely, swimming 100 yards of fly and the 200 IM.
I suppose as we find ourselves a little weary as the year wears on in the midst of the Lenten season which is challenging us to discipline ourselves and attempting to motivate others to do what we want, it might help to stop and articulate what motivates you to try something new, to learn a little bit more, or reach a bit farther than you thought you could.