Defining Success

Swimming: US Olympic Trials: Kathleen Ledecky victorious after winning Women's 800M Freestyle Final at CenturyLink Center. Omaha, NE 7/1/2012 CREDIT: Heinz Kluetmeier (Photo by Heinz Kluetmeier /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X155101 TK4 R1 F39 )
Photo Courtesy: Heinz Kluetmeier

By Chandler Brandes, Swimming World College Intern.


We all want it, but what is it?

According to Merriam Webster, success is a “favorable or desirable outcome.” As swimmers and divers, we know that things don’t always work out according to plan. We spend months—even years—working towards our desired outcome, whatever that may be. The hard reality is that sometimes, no matter how hard we work, we simply do not reach our goals.

So, the question looms: does failing to reach your goals make you unsuccessful?

That’s a tough one. It’s easy to fall into the mindset that failure to obtain your favorable or desirable outcome automatically makes you unsuccessful. But one must remember that no one becomes successful without failure; it’s just part of the process.


Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

Swimmers and divers fail. No one has a perfect race, a perfect dive, a perfect practice. There will always be setbacks and hurdles that must be overcome. Think of the most successful people in the world, whether they’re athletes or not. Was their journey to success smooth-sailing? Chances are, probably not.

Success is on a completely individual basis. Since it’s a process, people will be at different places at different times. We are not all on the same timeline for success and variables that we cannot control will inevitably arise. Comparing yourself to someone else, no matter how hard it is not to, will not help you reach your short or long term goals any faster.

What I define as success may not be the same as you. There is no one right answer to success and it comes in all shapes and forms. As an 8-year-old, success was considered getting a little blue ribbon after winning your heat. As we grew up and our goals and priorities shifted, so did our personal definitions of success.


Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Success for some may be reaching the pinnacle of our sport and winning Olympic gold. It could be crushing that ever-elusive record you never thought was imaginable. It may be going out on top in the last event of your college career, finally getting that win at your college conference meet.

Success could be nailing that new dive you were always too afraid to try or attacking a new race plan. It may be finally coming to peace with an injury or seeking out resources to improve your mental health. Maybe success is knowing when to say goodbye, knowing you gave the sport all you had to offer.

Success won’t occur unless motivation is present, so set meaningful goals to ensure you’re excited about the process of attaining success. Celebrate successes both big and small; each one is a step in the right direction to reaching your favorable or desirable outcome.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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