I have already established that I am a massive sports fan and amongst the various sports that I do follow, Formula 1 is definitely one that I enjoy for its strategy, teamwork, and sheer level of daredevilry (As a resident of Mumbai, I often get to see Formula 1 hopefuls trying to work on their skills: flying over potholes, multitasking on their phone and exchanging expletives with fellow competitors while driving, racing past red lights to gain a competitive advantage, blocking paths to prevent other drivers from passing, and occasionally crashing into each other at neck break speeds of 30 kilometers an hour). But the sport is more than just that isn’t it? It’s not only about winning each circuit or the overall championship at the end of the season but about the little victories, both skill based and psychological, which eventually lead to long term improvements and triumph.
While watching the race on television or in the stands (if we are wealthy enough to spare that kind of money on car racing, especially since we aren’t the ones inside the car), we experience aggressive driving, smart calls on each turn, split-second decision making, and the speed and finesse of the pit crew among several other attributes of this sport. But the sport is deeper than what meets the eye. Not only does each member of a team (right from the team principals, directors, technicians, analysts, designers, R&D members, the pit crew, and the drivers) render the old adage of 10,000 hours to a minuscule number, and work in faultless unison to obtain the desired results, but they also set small targets for every moment of every race in order to encourage themselves and keep striving forward.
Modern technology enables the millions of viewers at home to now listen in on the instructions and strategies (played out between the team crew and the driver) during a race (Now only if we could get on a three-way conference call and offer our advice as well, just to provide that much-needed boost towards winning the championship). However, we get to hear these conversations in periodic bursts, whereas a lot of deep exchanges take place, which we are not privy to. I believe this is where the real work gets done: support, words of encouragement, cheers on a small milestone achieved (like fastest lap), empathy during failed missions, planning ahead, breaking things down into smaller goals, and who knows, maybe even cracking a joke every once in a while (I know I would).
A lot of us don’t aim high or set far-reaching goals for ourselves. But those of us that do, forget to take our much needed ‘pit stops’. We are so focused on the end goals that we often fail to realize that we hold ourselves back from attaining them. Trying too hard without taking the time out to address and acknowledge our little milestones, is probably as bad as not setting ourselves those big goals in the first place. While it is certainly better to try than to not try at all, not doing anything and overburdening ourselves, by doing too much without reward for small accomplishments, could lead to the same result.
Let’s take our children as an example We have big plans for their education, extracurricular development, character formation, as well as life in the real world. However, we set progressive targets for them (right from their first steps and garbled words to serious development of skill, character, and mannerisms), and reward them for every little landmark reached. We nurture them with compassion, understanding, and love, as much as with discipline, prudence, barebones honesty, and strict rules. However, we don’t seem to display the same patience and nurturing attitude towards ourselves or other adults. Is this because all children are special? If they are, then at what age do they become ‘not so special’? At what point do we stop rewarding ourselves for our small accomplishments? At what stage do we stop feeding ourselves with compassion and love along with the beatings we dole out to ourselves on the way to our goals?
All entities from governments (they even reward their own for no accomplishments) and large organizations to businesses and sports teams have massive milestones. But they always recognize and reward the efforts and accomplishments of groups and individuals on the path to that goal. There is no reason why we can’t recognize these needs as individuals.
Life is like a formula 1 race circuit. It has the straights where we can cruise, it has nasty corners, it involves heavy decision making, it has a fair load of risks, it has highs and lows, it has friends and adversaries, and it often prevents us from completing races (due to confidence ‘crashes’, ‘engine’ failure, bad decisions etc.). However, you pat yourself for the effort, brush yourself, and plan for the next race.
Celebration is as important as planning. Encouragement is as important as achievement. Compassion is as necessary as discipline and hard work. It gives us a sense of self-value and helps us to keep moving toward our ultimate goals. We can’t keep swimming under water the entire way. We need to come up for air every now and again. We need our pit stops.