A different path.

March 2020, you were a cruel joke. I had been studying for a CFA exam scheduled for June, it got postponed. My first target race for the bike season was scheduled for the first week of April, it is also postponed. And on top of that I am in the midst of transitioning my career down a different path in the financial sector…given the current economic state, I’ll let you guess how that’s going. It seemed that within a 48-hour window I had very little to work towards, and for the first time in about 19 years I had no goals. Not only that, but I could no longer get on a plane to spend time with my family in Germany. Unmotivated, trapped, and lost are only a few of the words that summarized my mental state.

It is now that I am more thankful than ever for all of the training journals I kept during my 16 years of world cup Laser racing. In fact, it was a page in my very first training journal that mentally turned things around for me a couple of weeks ago. In 2007 I set a goal of an Olympic medal and World Championship podium finish in 2016 in the Laser Radial Women’s Olympic One Person Dinghy. In all capital letters at the very top of the page with a giant box around it, the goal was set.

Let that timeline sink in for just a moment. In 2007 I set a goal that was 9 years away, for reference I was 16 at the time.

Underneath that big goal, arrows progressed down the page with steps along the way. Everything from racing at the 2012 Olympics to get experience, winning a senior world cup race prior to the 2012 Olympics, a podium finish at Youth Worlds, targets for how long I wanted to hold a plank for, graduating high school, specific academic things I wanted to accomplish so that I would get accepted into the university program I wanted to attend, and then from each of those sub goals more arrows went off, breaking things down into even smaller steps all the way down to 1 month blocks of time. At the bottom of the page I made a note, re-evaluate in a few months. Fast forward a few journals, injuries happened, some goals were missed. One thing never changed though, and that was the big goal at the top of the page…at this point still light years away. As life threw curve-balls my way the steps to reach the goal changed, but the goal stayed constant.

So as I sat there reading these journals I realized that this is no different. The big goals still exist, I just need to adjust the steps I need to take to reaching those big goals. This extra time to study for the CFA program means I can gain a more thorough understanding of the topics I was struggling with, and beyond that, I can apply the concepts to what is currently happening in the financial markets. My big bike goal is unchanged, in fact, still a couple of years away, so now rather than focusing on race specific skills I am working on other bike skills which will still help move me towards my goal. And in terms of my career shift, again, there are skills that I can work on right now which will help me get to where I want to go. In terms of long goals, the big career goal I have set is not unlike my big sailing goal, I still have 11 years to achieve it.

So why am I sharing this with you? To say that everything is going to be okay. Unlike an injury, everyone is in the same boat. In a way it is an equal playing field, and like in ‘normal’ life, the individuals that are able to adapt their goals, stay focused, and stay positive will come out ahead.

I have taken this time to draw out a new goal tree, and while my goals for this week, the next month, and the next six months look very different, I have taken comfort in seeing that the big goals at the top of the page – they’re still there, the timeline hasn’t changed, I’m just taking a different path to get there.

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