Never Pretty, Always Beautiful: A Primer on Motivation

When the alarm clock chimed at 4:30am this morning, I didn’t leap enthusiastically out of bed. I hit the snooze button 3 times and really regretted not going to bed before 11:30pm the night before. I thought about quitting the swim.

When I looked out my window and saw the trees being tousled about by a swift wind, I imagined how cold it was going to be getting out of the water. I thought about quitting the swim.

When I checked the surface temperature map for the Chicago area, Lake Michigan had a reading of 51F. Since I was already online, I realized that I could easily update the blog with a post about this morning’s swim being postponed. It’s usually just me anyways this time of year, so I doubted anyone would get upset if I didn’t show up. I thought about quitting the swim.

When I started my progressive cold shower, it seemed more uncomfortable than usual. Research shows that poor sleep can affect your metabolism. So perhaps my body’s ability to thermoregulate was compromised by my lack of a full night’s sleep. I starting to convince myself that this was indeed the case and that I might be endangering myself unnecessarily if I entered the water. I thought about quitting the swim.

When I arrived at my favorite swim spot, I saw a Chicago Police vehicle parked on the grass nearby and directly facing the Orange Ladder. I “suddenly realized” that he was waiting there for ME. After all, the beaches are technically closed until Memorial Day. And aren’t there signs all along the lakefront path that instruct people to report swimmers who disobey this hard and fast rule? I was sure that someone had finked on me, and that as soon as I started to suit up, he would come over and tell me that swimming was prohibited. I thought about quitting the swim.

As I began putting together all my gear, I removed my swim goggles from their case. I immediately realized that something was very, very wrong. They had snapped apart at the nosepiece, and I had no spare set. I would have to go goggle-less – which I had never done before. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open in the water. The swim was ruined. I couldn’t go on. Bottom line, there was no choice. I HAD to quit the swim.

But I didn’t.

As I climbed down the ladder and started to immerse myself into the water, I realized that everything was going to work out in my favor. Why? Because despite all of these setbacks, I was mentally “anchored” by my desire to have an adventurous (and admittedly, a slightly outrageous) experience. I knew deep down that I was completely prepared for this swim, and that I wasn’t endangering myself.

And I had one of my best swims ever this morning.

The key takeaway here is that you will always experience these emotional surges of doubt and uncertainty whenever you undertake any challenging experience. And the closer you get to “D-Day,” the more intense they are likely to become. So get in touch with what makes you tick, and learn to mentally anchor yourself to a single value or set of values that enable you to override your “monkey mind.”

No Comments

  1. srhernan
    May 7, 2008

    Thanks for the great comment! I try to post content that any reader might find valuable, even if he or she isn’t a swimmer at all. Also, I have yet to check out promontory point, but I do plan to make it out there soon!

  2. Frogger
    May 7, 2008

    Wow, that was a lovely post. I love swimming in the lake, especially off the north side of promontory point, and usually when the water is warmer. But I read your post in the context of my fast approaching wedding. Now I feel slightly more assured. Thank you 😀 That is why they call it taking the plunge!


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