I’m going to start off with this:
Look, I get it. Hard Work DOES - to see extent - Pay Off.
I’ve not only done hard things in the past, but I’ve revelled in them, cherished them, adored them, and grown because of them. From Royal Marines Commando training to saying that awful, sad, final goodbye to loved ones, I’ve experienced tribulation in many of its guises.
Doing hard work, forges a better you, a more resilient you. It REFINES you.
Anything worthwhile is going to have a difficult element. You will NOT get where you want, athletically or otherwise, without pushing limits and overcoming what you find difficulties.
For all of us, an appreciation for all things arduous is indispensable.
So why do I loath the hashtag #HWPO?
Because a hashtag misses the nuance. It’s too dumbed down to accurately represent what TRULY makes an athlete successful. What’s more, it romanticises the hustle and grind mentality which burns so many of us into the ground. It glorifies what kills athletes - metaphorically, and far too often, disgustingly literally.
It teaches us that we run up against a limit, our job is to work harder. Sometimes, this is what we need. Other times - most of the time - it just compounds the issue. It makes us think that we’re not good enough because we’re not working hard enough.
It creates that thing so many athletes experience - professional or recreational - BURNOUT.
Looking for better, we force, and we struggle; desperate - YEARNING - for change. We LONG to bump our position up the leaderboard. We THIRST for PRs. We HUNGER for a change in body composition. We ACHE for positivity and self-belief. We CRAVE a change and respite from our limits. We kill ourselves to push harder.
This force creates pressure. Pressure we cannot maintain.
And yet all #HWPO does is encourage us to add more struggle, more stress, more force to our current efforts. As such, we burnout again, and reinforce the story that we’re doomed, destined for mediocrity, not good enough and never will be.
We end up over thinking, stressed, frustrated burned out, bursting into fits of rage or tears. Emotion overwhelms us, telling us to stop. But what do we do?
Add yet more FORCE to the equation.
Burned out athletes don’t win competitions.
Burned out people don’t end up happy.
The big secret of successful people - athletes or otherwise - is that whilst they work hard, they aren’t FORCING progress. It comes naturally to them because their mindset is aligned with the actions they take.
What’s more, watch them train, watch them live, and you’ll find something other than 16 hours of struggle per day. You’ll find equal emphasis on the activities which GIVE them energy - time with friends, chilling out, eating, SLEEPING.
The reasons athletes - humans - burnout is because they don’t balance energy in, with energy out. They put too much pressure on themselves and progress. They FORCE growth and don’t give themselves respite. They stop having fun and start taking themselves too seriously.
Maybe - just maybe - you’re looking at hardship wrong. Could it be that the real hardship you need to embrace is giving yourself permission to relax once in a while? Maybe it’s taking your foot OFF the gas pedal and enjoying the journey.
If there’s one thing I want athletes to do, whether they’re getting individualised coaching, in the Digital Mindset Gym, or in our Open Prep program, it’s prioritise “energy in” tasks. Maybe it’s worth trying? Or at least observe the correlation between the goals you’re forcing and the goals you’re struggling most with.