I hadn’t really wanted to be in the Atlantic Rowing Race. But I fell in love with a particular boat (bad idea!) and it happened to belong to the organiser of the Atlantic race, and it was a condition of purchase that I compete in the race.
So I did. I tried to wriggle out of that clause of the contract, but failed, and so ended up as a reluctant competitor.
I don’t know if you’re like this, but I can be competitive if I’m put in a competitive situation. I don’t particularly like to compete, but if put in a race, I just can’t help myself – I will compete. The race organiser somewhat encouraged this competitive attitude when he implied that with my cool new lightweight boat, I might be in with a chance of beating some other crews.
Youch, appeal to the ego. And I fell for it.
So, even though I was the only solo female in the race, so theoretically all I had to do was complete the race to win my category, I wanted to do well. And “doing well” for me meant beating at least one other crew. That might not sound like a very lofty ambition, but I was a (short) solo female up against mostly crews of two or four people – and one international oarsman – so to not come last was reasonably ambitious.
Oh, and one of my sponsors (and I only had two) had offered to double their money if I broke the women’s speed record for the crossing. That meant double-a-fairly-small-amount, but it was an amount that wasn’t completely trivial to me at that time.
Needless to say, it didn’t go well.
Little by little, I fell off the back of the pack. I did get close to overtaking a men’s pair, but then their boat sank and they were rescued, so I was in last position once again. As Day 56, the then women’s speed record, came and went, I was still only half way across the ocean.
I was getting mightily peeved about my race position, until one day I woke up to the insanity of what I was doing to myself. I remembered that my goals in rowing the Atlantic were to a) raise environmental awareness, and b) find out what I was capable of.
Beating other crews, beating the women’s record – these were other people’s goals, not mine. I needed to get back to what mattered, what my goals were.
It was such a relief. I let go of those other people’s goals, and got back to focusing on what mattered to me.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Have you ever started doing something (a job, a relationship, a sporting event) for one reason, and then somehow find yourself co-opted into somebody else’s agenda? Have you ever lost sight of why you wanted to do something in the first place?
If so, take a step back. Take yourself back to where it started. Remind yourself what matters. And be true to that.
If you’re interested in reading more about my Atlantic voyage, check out the book, Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean.
I’m speaking in New York this week, at a private corporate event. Top tip: if you fly from the UK to the US (or vice versa) with Iceland Air, you get a free layover in Iceland. So we’re off for a mini-explore – yayy!