Passion is vital to achieving your goals. This is something I was reminded of recently.
A friend asked me about a time when I had achieved something I was proud of.
As I started to relate this particular story, my voice grew more confident, and my pace quickened. I was excited by the achievement, and my passion for the accomplishment was palpable. It was then that it dawned on me that I needed to harness that same excitement when thinking about all my goals, not just significant challenges.
My proudest achievement
Only a small select group of people, including Lord Byron, can claim to have swum the Hellespont, which is still my proudest achievement.
The Hellespont or Dardanelles is a strait in Turkey that separates Europe from Asia. It is one of the oldest open water swims in history, first swum by Lord Byron in 1810 and made famous in Greek mythology by the tale of Leander, who swam across the strait every night to see his lover Hero.
Today it is considered the epitome of open water swimming challenges.
For one day a year, this ordinarily crowded shipping lane is closed for 90 minutes whilst the annual Turkish Victory Day race takes part. With only a handful of places available for non-Turkish swimmers, gaining entry to the race is challenge number one.
The second challenge is navigating the 4.5km route across the Dardanelles from Europe to Asia with few landmarks and powerful currents near the finishing post.
On 30 August 2008, I joined 229 others, who had come from all over the world to swim the Hellespont and gain their place in the record books.
It was a fantastic experience, at times quite daunting as I found myself alone in open water with just the jellyfish for company, but on the whole, it was superb.
I completed the swim in 78 minutes, which meant I was well within the allotted time for the crossing and avoided the embarrassment of being fished out by the Turkish navy, which happens to latecomers!
Did I also mention this was the first time I had done anything like this?
Anything is possible with the right mindset and a dose of enthusiasm
My good friend Jenny first came up with us doing the swim. She fancied following in Leander’s footsteps since school days. When she found out it was possible to take part, she thought it would be good for us to have a target to aim for with our swimming and, we could also use the opportunity to raise money for charity.
And so it began. We are both competent swimmers but neither fast nor particularly accomplished. What we lack in technique – we both favour breaststroke – we make up for in determination.
At the start of our adventure, we had mainly swum in indoor pools. We needed to seriously up our game to prepare for an open water swim of such magnitude. The race itself could take us up to an hour and a half so we had to be confident of being in the sea for that length of time. Gradually we built up our time in the water and tried to swim in varying conditions. Over the next few months, we progressed from lidos to the sea.
Although I had never done an open water swim before, I was determined to achieve my goal. I was excited and focused on what lay ahead.
Just like I had achieved my degree at university and gained a Master’s whilst working full-time, I was confident I would succeed.
I completed the swim and raised over £1000 for charity.
Are all goals equal?
If I have something to achieve, I am generally good at planning what actions to take. However, I had forgotten about that other secret ingredient – enthusiasm or passion for the goal.
It isn’t enough to believe I can achieve my goals. I also need to be excited about them. The grit and determination I muster when I have a big challenge to address should also be helping me achieve my everyday targets. Having recalled the Hellespont story I have started to replay it over in my mind. I see myself on the starting line and try and conjure up the emotions that were coursing through my body. The nerves and the excitement. I then think of the elation I felt on reaching the finish line and my pride when I received my certificate of completion. The trick is using those feelings and applying them to my every day goals and targets. Once I feel the excitement, I know I can achieve them.
Having the right positive mindset is central to reaching our goals, but anything is possible, even swimming the Hellespont when we are genuinely passionate about what we want to achieve.
I also used the combination of passion, mindset and focus to publish my first novel.