Mountain or Molehill?

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How is it that some people seem to be able to take on mahoosive challenges whilst others struggle with ones that you could do with your eyes shut? Could it be about individual perspective?

If I think back to when I first got into (proper) swimming, it was 2000 and I joined the masters squad at my local swimming club. It was there that I was taught to swim with my face in the water. It wasn’t just about training, the club is competitive and I was drawn into that also. I quickly realised that I was not fast enough to be competitive in my age group in the shorter events and I turned my attention to distance events and events that no one else wanted to do (e.g. 200m butterfly!).

One of the first targets that I recall was the 5k swimathon - this was a significant challenge. Then came the 10k swimathon.


Back with more traditional pool racing came training for the World Masters Games and the European Championships in 2005.

Thinking about open water, my first event was the Sandown to Shanklin event on the Isle of Wight.

These were all very real and significant challenges. I didn’t know if I could do them.

I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.
— Virginia Rometty

But little by little the challenges got bigger and bigger.

If someone said to me back in 2000 that I would go on to win a medal at the World Masters Games and complete 11 English Channel relays and 3 English Channel solos and travel the world with swimming, I would have told them that they are off their rocker. If someone had tried telling me that I would train hundreds of aspiring channel solo & relay channel swimmers each year I would have looked at them in complete disbelief. Yet that is where I am.

A channel relay is now something that I consider to be a completely normal and achievable event. So much so that the 3 or 4 relays planned for this year feel completely within my comfort zone.

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Even a channel solo, whilst still a huge challenge for me, is not the challenge that it was when I first attempted it in 2007. In fact, the English Channel feels like home. It feels safe. It feels familiar. Yet in 2009 I needed some support when I was creating a failure pattern because subconsciously I was scared that if I succeeded in a Channel solo that I'd follow my previous pattern and take on something bigger. Problem was I was already overwhelmed with it all and I just couldn’t handle the thought of that, so if I failed I wouldn’t have to face it. You can see the logic. Instead it was pointed out to me that I could just choose not to go bigger!

So, to me it seems that whilst one person’s mountain may appear to be a molehill for others, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a mountain to that person. It’s just about personal perspective and our perspective can change.

In what other context has that been true for you? Were you born knowing how to tie shoelaces, read a book or drive a car? No, all of these were learned. Once they probably seemed difficult and were done very consciously. Now, I suspect you can do each of these tasks without even thinking whilst doing other things at the same time. You’ve gained the skills and experience necessary. You have normalised the activity.

So - what is your next challenge? Is it a mountain or a molehill?

I have 3 English Channel relays this year and I’m currently undecided on anything else, you’ll just have to watch this space.

So if you’re an avid ‘mountaineer’ just occasionally look down and appreciate where you have come from and I would encourage you to help those still climbing.

If you are facing your own mountain, know that you can make the mountain smaller. One option is to speak with those people who have already done what you seek to do, learn from them. They will have advise based on their experience - things that worked well, things that they would do differently. Of course we’re all different and you may need to filter what you learn and decide if it is applicable to you and disregard those tips that don’t work for you.

If you want support on your big challenge, be it a mountain or a molehill, a sporting challenge, a new job or perhaps a project, get in touch now. It’s likely that I have been where you are now and I can definitely help with getting your head to the place that enables you to be successful. ~ ~ 07702 814690