Go for the personal record, not the medal

By Friday, February 19, 2010 2 , , Permalink

Looking at the Vancouver winter olympics, I can’t stop thinking about the milliseconds that separate the champion from the second place.

Is it really such a big difference?

You might argue that the real winner is the one who sees the tangible result, the gold medal.
I will contradict you.

The real winner is the one who breaks the personal record during the contest.

I remember a story I read in a coaching book:

Bob Beamon, an American, won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics by jumping more that 1 m beyond the world record. The Welshman Lyn Davies, who was expected to win the gold, was completely demoralized, and admitted that he had been completely focused on the gold, on the outcome, not the performance, and had he set himself a performance goal of say 10 m, or a personal best, and kept going for that, he would have got the medal.

This is the way coaching works. You set the stake, and it’s related to your performance, not the outside result.

Because we, as coaches, know that champions set internal stakes that are way higher than the world record. And we are here to help them adjust their performance to reach that stake.

That’s why I am proud of Swedish skier Anja Paerson, who demonstrated extraordinary internal will. After a crash in the Ladies Downhill skiing, everyone wondered if she would show up the next day for the other skiing events. She came, and managed to conquer pain and internal stress from the previous day fall, and won the bronze medal!



I am sure that for Anja this bronze medal is more worth than the gold.

And I encourage you to set your internal record, and break it!

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  • David Damron
    February 19, 2010

    From birth until the end of high school, I played team sports that were ultra competitive and I loved them. Then when I entered college, I entered the world of marathons and triathlon and my world was flipped upside down for the better. I realized I could still be competitive within myself (MY PERSONAL RECORD) and not need the medal. Sure, it is awesome to get a medal, but the different mentality from team sports to individual sports has led me to enjoy individual sports more. The comradeship that is developed within individual sports is great. At my marathons, people who I don’t even know will be rooting for me because we are all one team fighting to improve ourselves individually.

    Anyways, I think this is a great point that I wish I would have learned earlier in life.

    David Damron
    The Minimalist Path & LifeExcursion
    .-= David Damron┬┤s last blog ..Twitter Simplified Writing FOREVER in 4 Ways =-.

  • Maria
    February 20, 2010

    That’s a wonderful story David! I’m also a runner (well if you count out the last winter months) and I know what you mean about setting your internal personal record. Isn’t it sad that often the outside world is pressing for us to fulfill external stakes – “get that job”, “move into a house”, “have kids by the time you’re 30″, “achieve 100% increase in sales”, much rarer asking “what is your internal goal?”

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