Monday, August 17, 2009

Your Personal Best

Last Wednesday, I watched my nephew Christoper swim laps for charity for two straight hours. When the whistle blew he had traversed the pool 191 times. He wanted to hit 200 but needed 150 to collect his sponsor money.

As I watched him and the other BlueFish on his team, I was struck by how swimming is a sport where one is always striving to beat the clock, to do better than we did before. While it is hard to ignore the bodies swimming next to you, what matters in the end is what you do against the clock. While many of us compare our "race" in life as a competition with others, it really is more about our personal best and not about someone else's.

During the two hours, Chris had moments where he appeared tired and would use his arms more than his legs, other times he would get a burst of energy and zip down the lane. Sometimes he would flip at the turn, sometimes it was enough to touch the edge and head back. He said he kept track in his head of the laps but at times lost count or started counting by tens rather than ones. Even when he wasn't sure of how many laps he did, he kept swimming.

While it is a cliche to say life is about the journey not the destination, it is true, isn't it? Our expectations of ourselves are constantly shifting. Chris may have started out wanting to swim 200 laps but by the time it started raining and he got into the ice cold water he may have thought, "I just want to do 150," as the second hour wore on, he may have wanted to just make it to two hours without quitting. How his goal changed doesn't matter as much as the fact he kept going.

I wake up every morning with a goal of what I want to get accomplished. A plan for how I will wrestle form from chaos. I always plan on doing my best. That plan is usually in the crapper by the time I finish my first cup of tea. Sometimes the day takes unexpected turns that lead me to places I never dreamed, other days the toilet backs up, the dryer breaks and your car leaks. It is on those days we have to remind ourselves that this is the journey to a destination that is constantly changing. We may have started the day wanting to go to the beach but ended up waiting for the plumber. We may have wanted to be a princess but ended up living in Queens. We may have wanted 200 laps but surprised and pleased our self when we did 191.

That's the thing about a personal best -- it's personal. You decide what it means to you, you can make your life about failure and defeat or you can make it about discovery and reward. That is up to you.

As for me, I'm taking my cue from Chris, I'm shooting for the stars and jumping in the pool. Ready, set, start swimming.

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