A couple of years ago I was in awe while watching a documentary of Ueli Sleck breaking the speed record for speed climbing the face of the Eiger, in a time of 3 Hours 54 Minutes, coming in 44 minutes under the previous record. A year later, he would break that record by another hour. Now, the record stands at 1 hour 47 minutes by Ollie Hammond this year, who is only 18 years old mind you. Over the course of a couple of years this record has been cut in half.
Every Olympics new records are made and broken. Some stand decades, some years, some minutes. I always feel bad when I see someone who comes in second who has actually broken the previous world record, to have a level of progression where a world record is only good enough for second is just so amazing and perhaps daunting for an athlete at the same time. Why is it that records continue to evolve as fast as they do? Is it better preparation and recovery? Absolutely. Better resources for upcoming athletes? Sure. But what I want to pinpoint as a key factor to progression, whether it be in sport, or personal aspirations, is expectations.
“It is surprising what a person can do when they have to, and how little most will do when they don’t have to.” – Walter Linn
When records are broken, expectations grow, you now need to be faster, stronger, train that little bit harder, because that’s whats needed of you to be the best. Humans by nature, for our own survival, typically like to do as little as possible while still receiving the desired outcome. Whether it was hunting and gathering back in the day, or the elaborate training methods used today to get the most out of ourselves the fastest way possible. With increased expectation, coaches are pushing their athletes harder, and athletes are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the human body.
Hell, Felix Baumgartner just leaped from space and made it to the ground successfully. This is the personal expectation that he held himself to, the sky wasn’t even for limit for him. An insecure human would be quick to write Felix off as crazy, when in my mind if you choose to walk through 80 years of life and all you have to show for it is a house, a nice car and a well formatted resume, that is such a scary thought of dreams undiscovered. When Felix got to the ground and he was on his knees, I’m sure he had a euphoric moment within himself, a moment of dreams turned to reality, something that I think we all search for.
Now lets look at you and I. I’ve been guilty of setting my personal expectations way to low at times, and sometimes way to high. To evolve in whatever endeavor of life you wish to pursue, your outcome will be a reflection of the goals you set and the expectations of those goals.
“The problem is not that we’ve set the bar too high and failed but that we’ve set the bar too low and succeeded.” – Some Philosopher Dude… OK it was Sir Ken Robinson
What I’ve found personally, is that when I set the bar high and step out of my comfort zone, yes I become humbled quickly, but once I regroup, I realise that although I haven’t technically reached my goal, I’ve progressed to a point far beyond what would have been achieved with perhaps a more “realistic” goal.
The only way you fail your goals is if you fail to set new ones. Failure is not an end, it’s the start of a new chapter, or a whole new book, and is a necessary part of the process. I’ve never succeeded without failure, and if I ever do, then I set the bar to low.
We have so much time, we can rebuild.