On yesterday’s Achievement Podcast [that you can find HERE], we had the opportunity to speak one of America’s Premier Distance Runners, 3x Olympic Trials Qualifier in the Marathon, Under Amour’s Nick Arciniaga. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Nick has had 2 top-10 finishes at the Trials, and in 2 weeks, will be competing in the Berlin Marathon, one of the world’s most prestigious and elite meets.

As you will learn in the podcast, much of Nick’s motivation comes from a constant competition not just with his teammates from in College at Fullerton, or in Flagstaff training with his training partners – but with himself.

“My Dad would always challenge us to races when I was in elementary school, asking us to race him across the school yard or the soccer field…and I just found that enjoyable to see how much I could challenge myself. See how fast I could run the mile time trial in elementary school or whatever…Its always been a personal competition for myself to see how hard I can push myself to be better, and see how much more I could improve”

 Currently, there is a large focus on the idea of dominating, such as ‘dominating your opponent’or ‘dominating the moment.’ It’s this ultra-aggressive, sometimes out of control thought process that means that if you are not constantly kicking someone’s or somethings ass, then you are failing. This is a philosophy that I am completely against [if you disagree – tell me why at chris@achievementllc.com]. I believe, just like Nick, that the biggest challenge that you will face that the one that can lead you to your best performance – is yourself. Here is why:

It Allows You to Be Fully Engaged

When you become so focused on someone or something else before or during a competition, you lose your ability to be fully engaged. Being fully engaged is something that I feel is not talked about enough in sport. There is much talk about the process, and focusing on the moment [all of which is extremely important], however there is very little written specifically about being fully engaged with yourself during competition. If you are going to play or race at a level that you consider to be your best, you must be fully engaged. What good does it do focus on something else other than being your best in that particular instance? Focusing on your opponent moves that focus away from full engagement. Focus on your own performance first and foremost, and then react to your opponent not as someone or something to dominate over, but as someone that is there to bring out the best in you.

It Allows You to Focus on The Process

When your focus is on beating the person or the course that you are competing against [this would be known as focusing on the outcome], you lose focus on the process of how you are going to be successful. Remember that in order to get somewhere, there is a 1,000-mile journey that takes place. There are thousands of steps in a cross country race, nearly 100 plays in a basketball game, and almost 300 pitches in a baseball game that need to happen before the outcome of a competition is decided. If that is the case, then why would you be focused on the outcome if so much has to happen before the game or race is over? By competing with yourself first and foremost, the focus shifts to being in the moment and focusing on the process that will lead to a better outcome. Once we are fully engaged and focusing on the process, we can then start to analyze our performance more accurately.

It Allows You to Analyze Your Performance More Accurately

How do you know how well you are really performing if you are gaging your success bases on whether or not you are dominating someone else or not? Sure, you could be winning the race or be up by 30 points, but that does not necessarily mean that you are performing your best [What if the team is significantly less talented? What if they are injured? What if they got lost on the course?]. We actually saw this recently in College Football, when Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, after winning a game by 4 touchdowns, commented that he had never been more disappointed in a win ever, as they did not play the way that he expects his team to. When your focus is internal rather than who you are playing or running against, your awareness increases, hence giving you the ability to analyze what you are doing compared to whether or not you are beating someone. How can you fully notice the quality of your technique if your focus is on someone else? So once we are fully engaged and process focused, and you can analyze your performance better – NOW you are ready to perform at your absolute maximum.

Nick’s outlook on how he views performance is not just effective for him, but should be motivational to all of us who are looking to perform at our best. If you are focused on challenging yourself and pushing your limits, then you will find the outcome much more rewarding than you could ever have imagined.

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