Before I officially take the stand, let me be clear. I have no legal training, even if watching “Suits” counted for something. I am a scientist, a professional athlete, and cowgirl. I don’t have a law degree, and I am not even that argumentative or confrontational on a daily basis. Yet, allow me to take the stand in defense of a cause we are often too prideful to admit. Even when we look in the mirror in the morning, we never allow that sneaky feeling to interrupt our power stance. We want to be successful. Larger than life. Take the bull by the horns. Conquer the day. Or do we?
I am willing to take the stand to offer an option to throw everything you think you know about success, and feed it to the birds on the sidewalk in Mary Poppins. I plead a case in the defense of no pressure.
Having clear and strategic goals in order to fast forward to the finish line is not a new concept to any of us. We thrive on this. I am as much to blame as anyone. I love external validation. We all do. The gold star from our elementary days continues to elicit a sparkle in our eyes. Or maybe now it is the QOM or personal record. We become fixated on the prize and this drives us to be inspired, motivated, and achieve everything anybody told us we could or should do. Have you ever questioned whether you need that gold star? Or that kudos?
I raise the motion of disregarding the metrics and the shining stimulus we crave. We glorify pressure and goals because that gives us a tangible carrot and a box to check. Yes, that does stir something in us. It is powerful. It is what gets me up in the morning. It gives me the fire to pedal my bike as hard as I can. We see the buckle. We see the glory. We mark it on our calendar. This is why we are athletes. This is why we are successful.
Yet, may I be as bold as to say there is something to no pressure at all?
I have achieved some of my best results when I was calculated and focused with laser vision on the prize. I studied the course with satellite maps. I made flashcards of my competition. Scratch that, I am reliving my pledging for my sorority in college. But it is true, you should always know your competition. But no matter. I was prepared. I was deprived. I isolated myself. I was ready. I won. Nope. Not exactly. That didn’t happen. It never works the way you plan. Just like of the sad tale of mice and men.
Let’s be honest. At this point in my career, I have nothing to lose. I have lost so much and have won just enough. So let me be real. I have achieved my greatest results when all my goals were incinerated and I was left naked and lying on the floor. Oh wait, that’s a song. It really resonated with me in high school, and I guess I can’t deny it now. But you get what I mean. Like every athlete and sport enthusiast, I have made great plans of glory and winning and personal records and going to the Olympics and being the queen of the world. I have lived like a nun and shunned my normal glass of wine with dinner to focus on performance. I missed weddings, baby showers, funerals and birthdays. I checked every box with coaches, psychologists, therapists, and family. Then the big event came only for bad luck to steal the day with a flat, or crash onto the pavement with another concussion. Sometimes I even got airlifted out. Sometimes I lost a relationship. All you can feel at this moment is the all too familiar stab of failure. So what do you have to say to that, pressure? Is it worth it?
Yes and No. No one said I had to commit to anything.
Why the pressure? Why the plans? Yes, it is what drives us. Yes, we need goals. We need a purpose. We need a reason to get on our bicycles and push our limits. We need a reason to go to the office to supersede our quarterly reviews. We need a reason to be here.
But sometimes we don’t. We just need to enjoy. We need to go with our gut and our intuition. We need to ride hard because you want that Strava record and because you just felt like it. We need to capture the moments we have. We need to pick events that are fun. We need to bounce back up after falling down. Or not. We can lay and roll around in the mud for a bit. This feeling. This freedom. This is what ignites something in us that no goal can even strike a match to. We need to be free to just absorb adventure without the shame of expectations.
Yes, pressure is a privilege. But in defense of no pressure, let’s be in the moment. Let’s soak it in. Let’s not plan for those days that we are world champion and royalty. Let’s just raise a glass to the effort regardless of the result. I learned the hard way. By pushing away all my outside noise and focusing only on the goal, I forgot to notice what mattered most. My own happiness. Then, when you do crash and fail, you look who to reach out to, and they are the very people you shunned when you were so fixated on yourself and your mission.
In defense of no pressure, I say, cheers to it all, even the failures and the fun. Now, where are we riding today?