10 life lessons decathlon can teach us
#1 The power of a routine
Success in the decathlon, just as in life is unimaginable without a directional consistency in a daily routine. A decathlete who desires excellence in the sport must devote himself to it entirely. It must become a lifestyle from the time you wake up until bedtime. The overall result consists of much more than just the bulk part of training. It also includes mental training, mobility routines, regeneration, video analysis, long hours of processing and connecting information and more. The only way to motivate oneself to do all these little things on daily basis is by loving and believing in what you do.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Will Durant
#2 There is always something you can do to improve yourself
Decathletes cannot afford to be bored or lazy in their training. There is neither space or time reserved for that. There is always something a decathlete could be doing to keep falling forward. If an injury happens in the left knee, how does it prevent one from strengthening or working on the small exercises for the rest of the body? That could be one of the reasons why decathletes always enter the stadium as the first ones and leave the last ones. That could also be one of the reasons why “the greatest athlete in the world” title is ONLY given to the Olympic decathlon champion.
#3 Be here and now
Decathletes get to compete in their event relatively rarely, usually, 2 – 4 decathlon competitions per outdoor season. When they do, the pressure is on. Only three attempts in the long jump, shot put, discus and the javelin. Much is on the line. One bad result can ruin the whole competition. Opportunities to mess up are plenty. In order to overcome failure (which certainly comes at some point), one must practice embracing the here and now of the training process. One must learn to enjoy the journey whether the destination turns out a victory or not.
#4 You and your lane
A decathlete understands that he is competing against himself until the last event of the decathlon. Majority of the time the focus must be on your own efforts, and not the efforts of other competitors. Focusing on others’ progress only wastes invaluable energy sources. It is you against the stopwatch, tape measure and the bar up until the last event of the decathlon. When striving for excellence, don’t be comparing yourself with others; it only wastes energy and distracts you from the process. Better yourself first.
#5 You cannot control everything
In the decathlon, it is crucial to only control what is controllable. Not everything can be controlled. Weather almost inevitably at some point during the decathlon will not be right (too hot, too cold, wrong wind, too strong wind, not enough wind, rain, clouds, bad referee calls…) You cannot control it, just like many things in life. So, don’t waste energy on the things you have no control over!
#6 Get up and keep going
In short words: shit happens during the decathlon. The best decathletes have learned to embrace the suck. Chaos is an expected phenomenon of the decathlon. Blisters will happen, old injuries will flare up, you will feel terrible, WC’s will run out of toilet paper when you need them most. It is stressful, but you must face it head on and keep moving to the next event in order to run that victory lap with the rest of the competitors when the competition is over. Why do you think it’s any different in real life? Chaos will come, be ready to face it head on!
#7 Victory is messy but worth it
The best decathletes in the world will never tell you that things were perfect in their training process, and that is the reason why they became so good. Each decathlon victory hides stories full of doubt, fear and uncertainty, sometimes even physical and mental pain. Being the best takes all of you, and a big part of it often feels stinky, ugly, uncomfortable and painful. Don’t expect good things in life to come easy – good things cost much, and they are worth much.
#8 Nobody is born tough
There is an event in the decathlon where each competitor faces an internal battle. It’s like two persons talking to each other. Usually, the loudest voice is saying, “Quit, it’s way too hard and unnecessary to inflict so much pain for nothing”, while the other, more quiet voice, is saying, “No, I must stay true to myself and finish what I started no matter how bad it feels.” Here is where the human urges (instincts) meet human values. The urges are desiring homeostasis and comfort, while the values are desiring inspiration and nobility. It’s a true contradiction each person must deal with all life. You must practice toughness to become tough.
#9 Think – long term success
No decathlete became good overnight. Even talent cannot save a long-term lazy decathlete. There are ten disciplines to improve. In other words, there are nine too many disciplines that do not offer quick success. Instant gratification must be delayed, sometimes, for a long time, in order to reap tasty fruit in the future. Those decathletes who expect to be on the top fast, often end up making shortcuts that impede their training foundation and later rob from climbing great peaks. We live in a time where the drug called, instant gratification, is confusing and preventing us from valuing slow and gradual improvements over time that could bring lasting success in the future. Decathlon is a living example that there are no shortcuts to the top.
#10 Finish what you started
There is nothing worse for a decathlete to quit within a decathlon competition, and later watch the other competitors go through the grueling two-day battle. Suffering through a 10-event-competition is much better than dealing with an awareness that you gave up and nothing can be done to reverse it. Decathlon reminds us that quitting doesn't make things easier. You must finish what you once started.