Shannon Malseed rides for the Holden Cycling Team, Australian Development Team and is reigning Oceania Road Race Champion. These are Shannon’s reflections on success, failure, happiness and being a more mindful athlete.
Its what we all strive for from the day we are born, we are taught in life that you are meant to work towards success, and if you achieve success, then you will be happy. Simple. Set a goal, work towards it, reach it, be happy.
But what we also know is that sometimes we don’t reach the goal.Failure. Disappointment. Worthlessness. These are all feelings you may have felt in the past. I have, lots.
For me, success has always been measured by results, and validated by other people’s reaction.
Win a race – Dad, Coach, Boyfriend, Friends, Followers, they’ll all validate my success.- Lose a race – in my mind the same crowd will validate my failure. Until this year when I strived for success so many times and found myself unhappy no matter what the result. I achieve my goal, sadness. I fail, sadness. I also realised that these external stimuli (friends and family) supported me 100% no matter what the result. Even when I contemplated giving up cycling, they were still there for me. I spent 4.5 months away racing in Europe and America this year. I had the time of my life, but I also became depressed and lost all motivation. I had to re-evaluate when I came back home. I thought a lot about why the hell I ride my bike? What am I doing it for? What am I doing with my life? What is the purpose of life?
What I learned is that success is not a measurable entity… And it does not bring happiness.
You may find that, even after achieving “great success”, you wake up the next morning, or a few weeks – months later and find that you are just the same person. With the same worries, problems, and stressors in your life. You find that, even though you are “successful” and you have all these people around you to validate that status, you remain the same. My point is that success does not define you, you create goals and strive towards them which is an important process in life, but whether or not you reach that goal, come close to that goal or completely miss that goal, you are still you. For me it is about the journey towards the goal, rather than the outcome itself. Previously I found the motivation, dedication, and happiness from external sources (family, friends, social media), but couldn’t understand why I was still so unhappy and unmotivated. I know now that you have to find these things inside yourself for them to be real.
These things are always there, sometimes lying dormant, but can always be awakened. Mindfulness allows me to awaken these positive affirmations, so they are relatively permanent, rather than spurs of energy that pass by.
Mindfulness has allowed me to accept that each day I can rest knowing that I have become a step closer to achieving my goal.
Being mindful is something that I have been practising for a number of years now. It allows me to recognise, and understand the unrealistic negative thoughts and feelings that I have, and turn them into facts and truths (positive or not) – Riding my bike is something that I love, not only for the enjoyment I get whilst training, but also for the strength I gain, the tactical battle, and the physical combat.
I gain happiness out of these things, out of the freedom, the strength, the health benefits, and yes, out of the successful moments when they do come. But the moments of success do not define my life, nor do the failures. What defines my life, to me, is how I live every day. How I chose to approach my day and find meaning within every situation – including the sad ones.
When I slack off on mindfulness exercises, slowly but surely, things build up and I get stressed. All of the sudden everything is ruined. I start thinking about how many problems I have and blow them out of proportion, and this usually happens when I am most vulnerable – tired, sick, stressed etc. These adverse times are valuable lessons as they remind me to get on top of the mindfulness exercises again, and with this I see huge improvements across the board – study, work and training. I can handle the fatigue and stress a lot better when being mindful.
My mindfulness exercises consist of: – To do lists. – Meditation.- Yoga and stretching- Outings: go outside for a walk, meet friends for coffee etc. – Sleep: have a nap!I give myself permission to be human. It is sometimes extremely hard to stop “doing” and just sit down and relax, but it is highly important to breathe, be in the moment, listen and observe my thoughts and give realistic, factual input into these thoughts and feelings.
Projecting into the future – Nationals is my big goal for the next few months. I think I have the potential to win it one day. BUT… Cycling is a very unpredictable sport, it takes not only strength and tactical nous to win a race, but also a lot of luck. From what I have explained above, my approach to Nationals is a week by week, day by day, minute by minute process. I know that within each day I have small process goals that will get me increasingly closer to achieving my final goal.
Mindfulness has allowed me to accept that each day I can rest knowing that I have become a step closer to achieving my goal. If I don’t achieve my goal at Nationals in January I know that I did everything I could to get me as close as possible, but there was a better bike rider on that particular day, and that is ok.
Words by Shannon Malseed
Want to Learn More?
Join The Mind Rooms sport and performance psychologist, Michael Inglis, in his next Mindful Athlete workshop.