Two years ago now, I realised that I wasn't doing anything that would help me stay fit and stay healthy. It had been several months since I had last played football or exerted myself physically in an equivalent manner. So, to change that, I began to think of the best ways to get and stay fit. Finally, I decided that I would complete a triathlon. The idea being that if I could run, cycle and swim for long distances, all at the same time, that would keep me more fit than I was while I played regular football.
But the problem was I had no idea how to swim. I had never learnt it. I had cycled as a kid, but it had been several years since I had last been on a cycle. And running, well, I thought that running had to be the easiest bit and decided to start with that before I picked up cycling and swimming.
Two years on, I regularly run and cycle but I'm still at zero when it comes to swimming. I might be able to run ten kilometres faster than most people, and I might manage to cycle forty kilometres faster than most people, but I won't win the triathlon any time soon. Forget winning it, I won't even complete it until I get good at swimming over a kilometre at a stretch.
In our careers and in our relationships and in our lives, we are all running triathlons. Or more likely decathlons. There are so many aspects to do well in and master, or at least complete.
It is easy to look around you and see what everyone is up to in the triathlon. There are people posting pictures and statuses after every milestone they hit on the course. But it is equally easy to miss and not see the milestones that the same people are not hitting. After all, we portray our best selves to the world on social media and not our wholesome status of where we are on completing our triathlon.
When that is the case, it is easy to be overwhelmed by looking around and seeing people hitting these milestones. In a triathlon, there is a set order in which you complete things. First you swim, then you cycle and finally you run. Whereas in life, there is no such specified order. Each of us is free to decide what we want to finish first. Some of us even decide to skip swimming altogether. And that is perfectly fine and acceptable.
So, when you look around and see people hitting milestones in running, you can't immediately assume that they have completed their swim and cycle courses. They might simply have decided to run first.
In the end, what matters is completing the triathlon. You can't possibly finish running, swimming and cycling faster than everyone else. If you try to do that, you will just panic and give up.
By all means, look around and see what others are up to and learn a thing or two from them. But don't overwhelm yourself with the milestones others are hitting because you don't have the whole context of where they are in the triathlon. And that is what matters.