My preparation for the Squash National Games has been going on for over a year now and the journey has been sensational. I started this game 2 years back with the aim of getting into the college team. However, just a few months into the game, I realized it no longer made sense to have that as the ultimate goal. Because I knew I had the potential to achieve much more. So while I worked on getting selected for the team, I envisioned bigger goals for myself. One of the major milestones I set my eyes and heart on was playing in the National Games. Now this was something interesting. It was a goal I set when I was merely a beginner, did not really have an action plan and lost to most of the amateurs in my circle. I knew it could probably take me years to reach even close to achieving that goal and it felt like building castles in the air. Some people told me the same thing which made me wonder – “I am going to devote a lot of time on this, but will it be worth the effort? Does it even make sense to aim for this?”
Having been in similar situations many times before in tennis and academics, the answer was pretty clear to me. Of course it makes sense to have a big aim. A big aim which daunts you at night before you sleep but which gets you going when you wake up. And many of you will agree that having a big aim helps. After all, “If you aim for the stars, even if you fall, you’ll land on the moon”, they’d say. While I feel that this definitely is a motivating quote, it’s just not motivating enough. How about tweaking it to read –
“If you aim for the stars, make sure you land; else be ready to be in crushing darkness when you miss”.
The former phrase somehow intrinsically convinces you that settling for the lower aim will also be good enough. It somehow disrupts your focus from the aim which you set your eyes on. But the latter one tells you you’ve just one choice! And so, I feel we should set a big aim for ourselves, work extremely hard towards getting it and be content only if we do. Won’t you agree? And while we try to achieve that, we should divide it into much smaller sets of goals which we can track daily or weekly or monthly to help us in our planning, analysis and improvement.
I have dozens of smaller goals which I’ve set for myself which push me to be better every single day. One of the goals I set 2 months back in my quest for the bigger aim of playing in the National Games was to be able to do a full split on the court in the next 2 months. A full split is a physical position in which the legs are in line with each other and extended in opposite directions which is common in athletic activities, including dance, figure skating, martial arts and so on.
Now this is one of the most difficult position to be in, trust me. For being able to do it, I knew I would have to extensively work on strength and flexibility of my lower body. So I told my trainer that this is one of the main areas I want to work on for the next couple of months. And so we both started. We carefully designed an action plan which was demanding and included everything from working out in the gym to doing specific exercises on court to taking a fixed diet. From lifting dead weights of 140 kg with the legs to doing 5 sets of squats with a 60 kg barbel to exercises that I cannot even name were just a few things we worked on. There were times when I ‘almost’ passed out and times when I threw up (not almost this time). My trainer pushed me beyond the extreme of my limits. At the end of each session, I used to try doing the full split to see the progress that I was making. When we had just started this, I was hardly close to being able to do a full split, and used to manage what you can probably call half of a full split. But then I slowly started improving at it with each passing day. But even while I was, I had to take support of my hands on either side because the legs just couldn’t take the pain. Whether I would make progress or sometimes fail miserably, we were back to our training regime the next day, working on improving the strength and power of the lower body. This cycle continued for 2 months, and God was it horribly painful at times.
I even came up with a brilliant idea, or at least that’s what I thought it to be. If you guys must have done gym or played sports, there comes a time when you can no longer work anymore. There comes a time when you can no longer lift, jump, run, squat, throw or even move. When all you want to do is sit and relax and breathe and sleep. And so at this point more often than not, we give up and indeed just relax. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just pass this moment with a smile and push ourselves beyond the limit. Well, my brilliant plan was to take this a little too literally. I thought may be at this stage, when I know I could no longer go on, I should not focus on what I won’t be able to do but think about how beautiful it would be when I finally am able to get to the other side. And so, I started smiling whenever I reached this stage. Whether it was the last few counts of court sprints or squats in the gym, I knew my body was fatigued, and I could feel cramps creeping over my entire body. But to push myself at this stage, all I did was smile and think how wonderful it’d be to be on the winner’s side in a few seconds more. And as silly as it sounds, it works! For those few moments, if all you can think about is that your body is going to give up, chances are it will. But if you can just cut off your brain from thinking the negative and focus on the positive, you’ll be surprised you’ll be able to push yourself through the toughest of physical and emotional times.
And with extreme hard work, patience, dedication and this new found approach, I have finally been able to achieve a full split. And I managed to even capture a memory of it. Check it out.
Pretty cool, isn’t it? May be yes. May be not. To some, this might seem a mere accomplishment. To me, this is something amazing. Because only I know the pain I had to go through to reach where I am now from where I was before. And the sense of achievement that comes with it is a feeling I can’t explain enough. But while I’m proud of this, I’m immediately onto my next goal.
This is just a small sports story very specific to me, but I’m sure it applies to everything we do in life. Whatever we are involved in, be it a job, business, volunteer work, academics, sports or anything else, we should set a big aim for ourselves. Reaching there will be a colossal task, but all you need is the belief. It’ll be a long marathon. It’ll require patience, endurance, focus, persistence. You’d want to give up at times and just relax. But if we just run with a smile on our face and a reason in our heart, we’ll reach the finish line. And man, won’t you feel at the top of the world when you do. You’ll be a winner. You already are. But you just have to prove it to yourself. And I repeat again – “Aim for the stars and reach the stars. There’s no other choice”. After all,
Pain is just weakness leaving your body!