What can swimming teach us about reaching our business goals
Getting through a 1km swim is quite relaxing for me. I am not a natural swimmer, I am not an athlete, I don’t look great in lycra (understatement), I am not fast – but the processes I apply to swimming 20 laps of the local pool can also be used to help you achieve your business goals too.
“Tell me more, tell me more, was it love at first sight?”
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t leap out of bed in the morning and rush to the pool. I find it very hard to slot into my crazy week and some days I think I would rather step foot in front of a bus than go swim 20 long, slow, painful laps. But I do it – as I have a goal and I know the only way to get to the goal is to make tiny steps (or strokes) forward.
So how does swimming laps help us to reach our business goals?
Stay in your own lane. There is nothing better than being at the pool and just ignoring every other person. I swim in my lane, and my lane only. Up and down, up and down. Not once do I get out of my lane. Not once do I take my eyes off the black line of the bottom of the pool. In business it is very easy to get caught up in other people problems, other peoples social media feeds, let the insecurities set in and to forget what the heck we are trying to achieve for ourselves. Stay in your own lane people. Focus on your own needs first.
Break it down. 1km for me is a long way. I am certainly not built like a swimmer – I am more built like a whale who has feasted on a few too many seals. I break up my goal into smaller more easily digestible segments. Before I even get in the pool I am telling myself it is just 20 laps of the 50m pool. I then break that up into 2 lots of 10 laps. I then break up the 10 laps into 6 laps (so I am already more than half way of the half way mark) then 4 laps sounds easy to finish off the first 500m. Business goals are the same. Aiming at $100k in sales for the year can be very daunting. So break that up into monthly goals and then weekly goals, or number of clients or number of sessions. It is much easier to hit a big target by continually hitter smaller targets (not to mention a million times more empowering to see little successes along the way).
Stop if you need to. But you must start again. OK so I wish I could power up and down the pool without stopping for 1km. But truth is, I find thinking about breathing, swimming and not drowning all at the same time to be quite hard. 3 pretty important factors to get right if you want to swim. So about every 8 laps I need to stop. Usually to cough up all the water I have drunk, I try to act all natural, then I keep going. I haven’t failed, I am merely increasing my chances to finish my swim. Often with business goals you hit a roadblock, or in some cases you have to pivot completely. That is to be expected and nothing to lose your shit over. But roadblocks do not mean you stop. You must keep going, even if the direction has slightly changed.
Be held accountable. For me, a big part of the reason I want to go to the pool, is I have some accountability buddies who I check in with (and vice versa) to see how we are going with spending time on ourselves. For me it is swimming, for another it is pilates, for another it is walking. Doesn’t matter, but when you think someone is going to push you that bit harder, suddenly you are so much more motivated. Business goals – same deal. If you don’t have someone that you check in with, find someone. If you don’t have someone who you can debrief with about your progress, find someone. This person will not only help you but sometimes we all need a kick up the butt to keep going in the right direction.
Track your progress. Now, I will hardly be vying for an Australian Olympic swimming spot any time soon. But by tracking my progress over the past 6 weeks I can see that the time for a 1km swim has gone from 31:50 down to 28:12. Now I am naturally a (very) competitive person and healthy competition is such a motivating factor. But if I can’t see results (good or bad) then I don’t know what to change (or keep doing). Business goals need to be tracked – whether you are tracking sales, profit, customers, newsletter signups, workshop attendees – you need to track it, you need to review the data and you need to use the data to work out your next step.
“I actually love swimming, but I just hate jumping in the water – Natalie Coughlin”
Business goals often evoke fear – fear of failure, fear that you have set the wrong goals, fear of under achievement, confidence issues and self sabotage just to name a few of the negative emotions that goals and generate.