In the play "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre, some people are trapped in a metaphysical, self-imposed hell – one room, no windows, crowded together and not able to leave. After they had spent much time here, a door opened and they were free to go. However, they remained because the unknown was too risky and filled with perceived danger. They had become comfortable with the status quo (horrendous lives) and lacked the courage to experience something much better.
This story is a perfect metaphor for many of us who have become comfortable with the status quo of our competitive efforts. Frequent encounters with danger and taking risks are presented to you in sport and other arenas of life. As an athlete, you should know that taking on such encounters makes you inwardly strong...instilling in you a profound awareness of life...bringing new meaning and richness to your experience. In a word, taking risks makes you feel ALIVE as they invariably lead to significant breakthroughs in your sport as well as all of life.
Let this paragraph set the tone for a new attitude toward how you compete and why. Your greatest "highs" in athletics have usually been the by-product of the courage you exhibit when you take the calculated risks to improve. Naturally, there are the failures and setbacks experienced when taking risks yet even they become your teachers as you learn from them, how to become more proficient at what you do.
There are many types of risks as there are people. For some, cutting back on professional work to train more diligently is a big risk yet necessary if you're to be a serious contender. Taking tactical chances during an event is a risk that could effect you physically and emotionally; for example, in cycling you could crash or go into oxygen debt when you scream to the front on that first climb. And, consider the more subtle risk of refusing to take the risk to improve and always wonder "What if I competed on the edge?"
If and when you are so inclined to demonstrate courage, let the following exercise help you to create the courage to take risks and to feel successful, regardless of the outcome.
Follow the steps in order
Will taking this risk (you define it) possibly improve my performance? If you answer YES, go forward.
What is your worst-case scenario for taking the risk? If you can accept this outcome, go for it. If not, put it on hold...stay within your comfort zone and wait until your confidence improves.
If you decide to take the risk, be sure to plan...and plan some more, obtaining information and instruction that will facilitate your performance. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Regardless of the outcome, be sure to congratulate yourself for having the courage to take the risk. Know that, in time, taking repeated risks will ultimately lead to success; without risking your will not succeed. Remember that what's lost by not trying and what's lost by not succeeding are very different. In the latter case, you can learn from the setback and eventually get there.
Regardless of the outcome, be sure to congratulate yourself for having the courage to take the risk. Know that, in time, taking repeated risks will ultimately lead to success; without risking your will not succeed. Remember that what's lost by not trying and what's lost by not succeeding are very different. In the latter case, you can learn from the setback and eventually get there.
If you suffer a setback, use a clear head to go beyond...seeing failure as the dues you pay to be vibrantly alive and as a gift (even if you don't ask for it) to help you become a great cyclist.
Know that a full, enjoyable, exciting life, one where you push the limits of your personal, physical and inner potential will always include opportunities for thousands of risks which require you to be courageous. Great performers have the fear of failing like everyone else yet go ahead anyway because they have the courage to follow their heart...what they instinctively know is right. (The word courage is taken from the French word coeur, meaning heart.) They also exhibit a high tolerance for setback and failure because they know that not taking a risk could lead to a life of regret: the pain of taking a risk and failing must always be weighed against the pain of not taking the risk. There are many boats in the water but few have the willingness to lose sight of the shore.