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“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations – we fall to the level of our training” – Archilochus

I chose today’s quote as I saw a documentary at the Barcelona Docs festival this weekend that was breathtaking, awesome (in the literal sense of the word) and inspiring. It was truly about a man reaching and exceeding physical and mental limits most would have called impossible.

Actually, I didn’t even know that free-diving (diving without a breathing aid) was possible. It was incredible to see the underwater footage of the limits that humans can push. (Dolphin Man is a new documentary on the story of free-driver Jacques Mayol).


Expectations vs Reality

How do we create expectations? I’ve always found it interesting how people have completely different expectations and perceptions of themselves than others do – myself included.Motivational Monday 57 Imagine

For example, I have no problem believing I can have the career I want, visualize and building this blog into an amazing full-time career like my Blogger Heroes, or follow my dreams. Even my toughest hurdle yet (the weight loss mystery despite intense training and perfect health) has a solution, I know it. In other parts of my life though, I feel less confident.

In fact, I believe it comes down to expectations and perhaps a little “mental training” to overcome our hurdles.  As I’m writing this post, I’m thinking of the Dolphin Man documentary and free-diving champions like Mehgan Heaney-Grier.

Wow – is about all I can muster when I watch the videos.

Awe-struck.  How are they diving without oxygen?!  How do they stay so calm underwater, in the ocean?


How Do We Define Our Expectations?


Whether we’re training for a sporting event or to get fit, mentally preparing for an exam, or taking on another one of life’s daily challenges, I think our expectations come from different places.  Where they come from, and how we react to these expectations can truly change the way we approach our next endeavour.


Here are three places I think expectations come from: 


  • What Others Think We Can Do –   Isn’t it so much easier to believe in yourself when you surround yourself by people who do?
  • Societal Expectations – Personally, this one doesn’t bother me much. I’ve always been a non-conformist!  However, I understand the pressure that can come from friends, family, the media and other parts of our lives.
  • What We Believe We Can Do –   In my view, this is the most important.   Always believe you can.  Find a role model who has, and believe you can, too.


Although I’m determined not to give up on my training goals, if you know me you know what a struggle it’s been.  Even though I do believe that everything you can imagine is real, sometimes it’s all about training the mind to truly believe it.


The Importance of Mental Toughness In Training

If you read last week’s post you know that swimming has been a mental challenge for me.  I love looking up motivational quotes by athletes and watching videos of their amazing accomplishments.

Actually, Tim Ferris’ post on mental toughness is an interesting read if you’re into the subject. The post summarizes a few great quotes on mental strength in athletic training and tells the stories of the athletes.  One of my favourites is the one by Christopher Sommer (US Gymnastics Coach).   “The secret is to show up, work hard, and go home.  Blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will”. 

 I love that, don’t you?


The Importance of A Calm MindMotivational Monday 30 - Intuition Quiet Mind

Now, here’s where you’ve got me!  Anyone who’s met me in person or has been reading this blog for awhile will know that I’m the opposite of calm. In fact, if you missed my post on trying to have a quiet mind, it has a few ideas I found a while back!


Frenzied, goal-oriented, driven? Absolutely.



Now, this presents a major challenge in swimming. I’m sure you can imagine that if you’re not calm under water, breathing (with or without help!) doesn’t work.  It’s taken me some time to progress, but I’m getting there. With practice and training every week, I’m getting there slowly, but surely as the old expression goes.

When my swim instructor suggested I see Dolphin Man  help me see the limits of what is truly possible underwater I laughed and said, “Why not?”. However, I soon realized how incredible free-divers feats are.  What are a few meters, or standing at the bottom of a pool compared to that?

I’m sure when I jump in the pool tomorrow I’ll be thinking of the free-divers and the incredible calm they have underwater. It seems peaceful.


Staying Motivated With Few Results

Never Give Up

So why keep going with mental or physical training when you see so few results? I’ve had quite a few people ask me this with regards to my personal training challenge.

Well, the truth is that quite simply, the time will pass anyway.

Sometimes, progress is slow.  Remember that turtle-like progress is still progress.  I have to remind myself of this in every training session, every swim lesson, and every time I jump into the pool to practice myself.

While I’m not really inspired to free-dive, who knows what I could do in a few years? Perhaps I’ll be checking out surfing lessons one day, and feeling totally free rather than trapped in the ocean.

Actually, I was watching clips from Soul Surfer with one of my younger ESL students today. In case you’re not familiar with the story, Bethany Hamilton is a pro surfer who lost her arm to a shark accident as a teenager, and continued to surf again as a champion.  Her story is inspirational – and makes for a great ESL lesson!   Once I open my TpT Store, it’ll definitely be in the Inspirational Documentary lesson plan section, so stay tuned 😉

What’s your greatest training goal?  The biggest expectation you’ve set for yourself?  I’d love to hear from all of you in the comments below!

Have a lovely and productive week!


P.S. Photo fans, the main image from this post (and poster!) is one I took in the Swiss Alps last weekend. We got lucky enough to watch a paraglider take off and get great shots with a zoom lens!

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