Last Sunday I had the great joy of watching my husband compete in his first Ironman competition. In case you don’t know, Ironman is a long-distance triathlon where participants swim for 2.5 miles, cycle 112 miles and then top it off by running a full 26.2 mile marathon. It is probably one of the most physically challenging – and therefore mentally challenging – things that one can do. Eduardo decided to do this to commemorate his 40th birthday which is next week.
I was incredibly inspired by his commitment to his goal of becoming an Ironman and remembered two important life lessons through the process of watching from the sidelines as he trained like a madman the past 9 months. They are the essential ingredients to make dreams come true.
Ingredient #1: Discipline.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” Jim Rohn
All these months on weekends when I wanted us to go to Sunday brunch, Eduardo was out instead riding his bike for 6 hours in the ice and snow. After working long 12 -hour days, he was at the gym or park running and swimming. When I wanted to go out to dinner or drink a glass of wine, Eduardo was watching his diet meticulously (and he lost 25 pounds as a result). His discipline to his race was intense… and inspiring.
I have often had trouble with the word discipline. In general, I don’t really like to be told what to do and anything too rigid with too many rules instantly turns me off. But then I learned that discipline has the same root as the word disciple. And what is a disciple? One who is devoted to someone or something. So Eduardo cultivated immense discipline out of his discipleship to his dream. And what is more beautiful than that?
We can shift our perspective on the word discipline and start to see it as a form of love and devotion to our dreams.
Ingredient #2: Perseverance.
Just before we left for Japan, we came across a You Tube video someone posted on Facebook with the legendary surfer Gary Lopez. Gary was talking about lessons he has learned from a lifetime of surfing. Gary spoke about how surfers are sometimes in the wrong position and get caught inside a set of waves (not what you want when surfing!). In those moments you have choices – you can either give up and get washed back to the shore by the waves, you can panic – neither of which choices does one much good. Or, he says, you can keep paddling.
A few weeks before the Ironman, Eduardo started complaining about knee pain. I started to panic. I called a massage therapist, acupuncturist, and every other healer I could think of to see what could be done. He had dedicated too much time, energy, and passion into this Ironman project to turn back now. He tried different things but nothing brought relief. We kept praying for a healing miracle. The day before the race Eduardo was still limping and in a lot of pain. We both recognized that his knee was not going to be better in time for the Ironman, he was caught “in a set” and had choices to make. It became mind over matter. The day of the race I told him what I tell all my yoga students during a hard yoga pose or practice- your mind will try to quit before your body. If you can master your mind, you can do anything.
After a brutal race (the Ironman in Japan is considered among the most challenging and grueling of all Ironman courses) with excruciating knee pain and a broken toe (he stumbled on transition between the swim and bike and broke his toe!), Eduardo crossed the finish line grinning ear to ear. Physically he was wasted – his body had broken down – but mentally he was strong. Later when I asked him what kept him going, what was he thinking about during those 12+ hours, he told me the only thought he kept repeating like a mantra: “keep paddling”.
Watching him succeed and become an Ironman re-inspired me to think about my own dreams. I recognized the absolute necessity of cultivating more discipline – as a form of devotion – and perseverance to really see my dreams become reality.
What are your dreams? There will be obstacles. It won’t always be easy. We will endure hardships, pain, loss and disappointment. The waves might be big. But you can do it.