As a teacher, I see every day how worried kids are about their grades. They make themselves sick over a final product; one low grade on an essay can ruin their mood for the class, the day, the semester. I see them ruminating, criticizing themselves, and talking negatively about their abilities. Many of them see one low grade as a predictor of an entire failed life: a bad grade on an essay means rejection from a good college, a good job, and as a result, a good life. They often feel their performances on these assignments now will dictate their happiness for the rest of their lives.
Their outlook on what makes for a valuable life is fairly common, that happiness lies in the product rather than in the process. We all do this in many ways: we postpone happiness until we have the new car, the new job, the good grade, the lift PR. We can’t deny that the product is one measure of success, but if it is the only measure, we spend our lives disregarding or hating what should be the best part: the working on, the working through, the working hard. If our happiness is measured entirely by the success of one moment or one tangible goal it becomes conditional: we are only happy when, rather than happy while.
This does not make CrossFit, or any endeavors in life, fun. Instead, we label moments as success or failure, and over time, we begin to label ourselves as success or failure. Once we no longer find fun in what we are trying to accomplish, who do we become then? What are we even doing here? Instead we should be asking, who do we become from the dedication to the process?
Josh Bridges is a perfect example of an athlete who genuinely values and enjoys the process. Bridges finished 31st out of 40 athletes in the Games this year. Historically, Bridges has been a close-to-podium athlete, and his finish this year was his lowest place finish so far. He remains, however, a fan favorite, and is still loaded with sponsorships. Many love his attitude towards adversity more than they value his athletic abilities. Despite his uncharacteristic performance this year, his attitude always remains the same. In a recent interview Bridges states, “I wasn’t given the gift of height or weight, or whatever, but I was given the gift of work.”
Bridges’ attitude helps us shift our focus from product-based success to process-based success. Sure, it is exciting to launch yourself over the rings or PR a lift, but the near misses and the struggles are just as valuable. There is excitement in the working-on-it moments, the potentiality. Think about what kind of person shows up day after day to slog away at a skill for no other reason than to find fun in the effort, to become better, to master the skill for its own sake? Most of us will never go the Games or even qualify for Regionals, so it must be about the person we become simply by putting in work. Aim to PR your consistency and enjoy the fails rather than worry about whether or not you have hit that lift yet. Have you been working hard, consistently? That deserves a PR bell just as much as any Olympic lift.