There’s a downside to success that many do not talk about. Imagine, for years you worked hard to achieve something that may felt impossible, to hit that one goal you always dreamed of, only to one day achieve it, wake up the next day and ask, “now what?”
The “now what” question often lead to dealing post-event blues or depression. It’s not a matter of how high or low the aim was, but rather about the sacrifices one had to put aside to reach their goal.
In the case of professional athletes who train all their lives for a specific sporting goal, they often lead very strict lifestyles that require big sacrifices as their training become their job, their life. They put aside relationships, regular income, other activities and indulgences.
At age of 22, I quit my full-time job as a journalist at a reputable newspaper to focus on my goal and took four years to train as a professional weightlifter with the Rio Olympics as my end goal. Fast forward to 2016, I competed at one of the biggest events second to the Olympics — the Olympic qualifiers that took place in Uzbekistan April 22-30. Through team effort, the UAE National Weightlifting Female Team secured enough points to send one woman to the Olympics.
I knew the chances it would be me, was slim. Still, I preserved.
Prior to the Qualifiers by 6 months, I had sustained an L5-S1 herniation while training in the U.S., which lead to pain in my lower back and legs for months, leaving me unable to do basic day to day activities (I couldn’t wash the dishes, I joke you not!), let alone train for four hours per day as done during my peak.
In fact, the decision to continue the journey for the biggest moment in my athletic career was not an easy one. Not only my performance had suffered the months before leading up to the competition; inner demons of being incapable to do more and questioning my life choices “why have I sacrificed all of this for?” came up far too many times.
However, knowing that to qualify the team required seven girls (and I was the 7th member) to garner enough point; looking at the big picture of having an Emirati woman representative at the Olympics, was more important. I told myself: I didn’t go through what I went through all those years from training and sacrifices only to walk away in the end. Injury or not, will give it one last shot, so this way I can leave it all on the platform with no ‘what ifs’.”
That one more shot made the difference in our qualification. In a way, I achieved my goal – but then I was left with a big decision to make – to continue the path as a competitive athlete or not. What’s next?
Many goal-seekers and success achievers build excitement overtime, plan day in and day out what they want to nail as a goal, and once they do, there is a sense of “this is it? It’s over.” Leaving one with feeling of sadness or emptiness; and for those whom who had to stop suddenly due to external circumstances may struggle with re-integrating in a new role than what they had been known for.
This is where mental strength and mindset with overcoming post-competition or success blues are important skills: Here are 6 tips:
1.Recognize it: Acknowledging it will eventually happen will make you ready for next steps. As it bestows upon you, you’ll recognize the signs and emotions that you may go through. It is okay to take time off training, re-assess and allow time to heal.
2.Seek Sport Psychology/Support Groups: If you find yourself lost and in need for guidance with your fitness or performance seek coaches to help with setting new goals and/or involve yourself with new activities. There is no shame in re-directing
3.Choose a New Goal: Whether it’s a sports goal or life goal, find something that inspires you to keep doing and creating. And remember goals that we set are meant to be achieved and then move on to the next thing. It’s not the end of the journey.
4.Enjoy the Process: The process is where you learn skills on how to achieve your goals. A lot of growth happens during the ups and downs of the journey. Focus on small progress over time, 1% a day adds up to 365% per year.
5.Become a Coach or Mentor: Many athletes learn valuable skills over the years of training that they can use to help a new generation of athletes follow their footsteps. Create a program for the community that can benefit from your knowledge.
6.FINALLY! Goals don’t define You. You define You: Success is subjective. What you achieve is not who you are as a person, but the meaning you choose to associate it with. Focus on your self-development as you achieve your goals, and that’s the biggest goal you’ll ever work on that has no end. So, keep moving forward!