Michael Phelps win gold over South Africa’s Chad le Clos in Rio was amazing to witness. The stamina, the comeback, the gold. Truly inspiring.
While there are many topics of interest surrounding Michael Phelps (drug bust/use, retirement, return to swimming, most medaled Olympian of all time), my interest falls with Chad le Clos.
That’s right—the guy who lost to Phelps (and the silver and bronze medalists) even though with 15 meters to go he appeared to be on target for silver.
I was so intrigued watching Le Clos on the last lap—as even in real time I noticed that he turned his head to the left multiple times (five actually) to look to see where he was in relation to his primary competition.
Was he in reach, behind him, in front?
Le Clos obviously didn’t like what he continued to see with each glance, and I offer that cost him placing in the 200m Butterfly in Rio.
Chad le Clos was assessing, processing, and then because he’s human, making that information mean something. It’s what we do. We receive information visually, auditorally, olfactorally, energetically. Our brains decide what it is we are sensing or seeing, and then most of us then categorize, measure, or assign meaning to what we’ve just experienced.
Some would argue this is good strategy. “What are my opponents doing?” “Are they doing better than me?” “What should I be doing differently?” Let the feedback be a motivator.
And as the outcome stands, that approach didn’t serve him.
I can make some conjectures about what his potential thought patterns were based on what he saw. Obvious thought patterns/statements of truth that come to mind are: “He’s beating me,” or, “I’ve got to go faster, be better,” “This can’t be happening,” and even maybe, “I’m going to lose.”
When we get into “comparison mode” we also unwittingly welcome in fear, judgement and shame which unsurprisingly are the opposite of motivators. Actually, they are motivation’s bouncers, if you will. Let those guys in and you’re going no where fast. And this is what I saw play out in the pool last night.
Conversely it can’t be ignored that Michael Phelps stayed the course, never took the time to look around and assess what was happening around him (even the pre-swim attempts at intimidation on Le Clos’ part). MP dug deep, stayed focused, kept going, won gold. Again.
Looking around to constantly assess what our “opponents” or “competition” are doing doesn’t serve us. At the end of the day, we have to be our best motivators, our biggest supporters, and believe in ourselves more than anyone else. Only we know what’s inside of us and what others can produce, offer, or succeed in has zero to do with our capacity. But sadly, we let it.
What if we adopted the belief that comparison is what actually holds us back?
What if we chose to believe that comparison, by its very nature limits what is possible because it sets parameters (which our brains love, by the way! “Let’s keep it organized and clear; I want to know the ground rules, here!”).
Comparison holds us back, keeps us small, and limits what’s possible for us. What if we simply did our absolute best at what we know we can do?
If you’re constantly looking around at what you’re not—you’ll never be who you are.
If we didn’t compare ourselves against others, what might we accomplish?
Author: Sarah Zeren
Image: Video Still
Editor: Travis May