When You're Hit With "Why Am I Doing This?"

My favorite party of the year is Seattle's Fat Salmon swim race. Swimmers from all over the area congregate for a morning of socializing around a pair of point-to-point race distances -- one and three miles.

This blog post is about how you start something like, say, a long-distance race, and in the first minute you're asking, "Why am I doing this again?"

It's a common situation: You plan for something, set a goal, pant after it in your daily life and then it shows up and as you step into it and you're suddenly visited by an existential spin of: "What the -- ?" The inner trickster. Here's how I dealt with mine.

Obviously I wasn't going to get out of the water. I tried, but there was no competitive mojo in my body or spirit, so I just settled in and refrained from judging. Sometimes during a race I try to open up to lessons I can take into my work life or personal life. The mantra that entered my mind on Saturday was: "Slow and steady wins the race." I started to argue with this line: But I don't want slow. And I'm certainly not winning any race today!

Still, that seemed to be the leitmotif of my swim, boomeranging back every time I tried to push it away. And it worked, in that it helped me take one stroke after another in an unhurried fashion, accepting the fact I wasn't going to slip into a competitive pace. Here I was, oh well. Mantras can be like a pacing coach.

It turned out to be a pretty good swim, too. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the distance, I didn't winge and whine and get out of the water thinking, Never again!  I lost my timing chip during the swim and was perfectly content to not have to get my time.

And then a friend informed me that I had won my age group. What a surprise! It doesn't make life that much better to tell you the truth, but it does make me giggle. And it makes me value the company (and truth) of a mantra when it comes visiting. It was perfectly 100 percent true for that day.

So on this note --

What one-liner is whispering in your ear when the Trickster shows up?