With the beginning of the new year, I felt I was drifting along a bit and I was generally unhappy about that. I felt unsettled. So I decided to sign up for a goal setting course with the fabulous Kim Ingleby. One of the questions Kim asked pretty much right at the beginning was a biggie: Who do you want to be?

Who do you want to be?

I mean, I am struggling with the question of who I am beyond my name, birthdate, qualifications, nationality. So who do I want to be was a real stretch (and that question is truly another can of worms, which I will open another time). I went away and did some thinking. Floating on a wave of enthusiasm I then announced: I want to be a champion, not just in sport! YES! There it was! I want to be a champion, a winner, a… yeah, what? What exactly does it mean to be a champion?

The Oxford Dictionaries says this about the word “champion”:

cham|pion

NOUN

  1. a person who has surpassed all rivals in a sporting contest or other competition:

    “a champion hurdler”

    synonyms: winner · title-holder · defending champion ·

    [more]
    gold medallist · prizewinner · cup winner · victor · conqueror · victor ludorum · champ · top dog · number one
  2. a person who vigorously supports or defends a person or cause:

    “he became the determined champion of a free press”

    synonyms: advocate · proponent · promoter · proposer · supporter ·

    [more]

Now, I think the first definition is fairly straight forward. A winner, someone who has surpassed all his rivals. I’ve been there numerous times, I know what it feels like to win. But then there is the next question: What does winning mean? Yes, it means beating opponents, but can you win without being a winner? Can you win without beating someone? I’ve been asking myself that question quite a bit lately: What does winning mean to me? I am still trying to figure this out. But I think it’s quite central to my motivation to compete and I don’t generally toe the line to just complete an event.

ETU Championships Eilat Podium
On top of the world at the European Championships 2012

At a bare minimum, I am competing against myself – though I have found that this particular mind set brings its own pitfalls. I find myself tempted to back-off when the going gets tough because ‘Hey! You’re doing well and you just need to hold it together until the finish and the other people don’t really matter. Stay within you.’ On reflection, it’s a bit of a bizarre mind set, but one that has come from starting triathlon and being a weak swimmer. It has come with learning not to panic when people are 3 min up the road after the swim. It has come with learning where my strengths are. Which is fine for a triathlon, but in one event races, champions have a different mind set.

 

Winners are looking to dominate, to destroy the opposition. Show them who’s boss. Or do they?

See, this is where the slightly paradoxical and somewhat contradictory second meaning of champion kicks in: the ardent defender of a person or cause. This suggests that a champion is not after destroying or dominating anyone, but rather it’s all about support, help, passion. A champion is someone who appreciates the struggles of others and gives his time, strength and soul to help improve a situation. There is no domination of others. There is no destruction. What there is, is a spirit of mutuality, community and unity.

So here’s me announcing that I want to be a champion, not just in sport. I think when I said this, there was already a subconscious recognition of this dichotomy. Of the different identities, possibly even personalities of a champion. Granted to become a winner champion, you have to dedicate yourself, appreciate it is going to be hard, suffer, struggle, give your time and strength, to improve – yourself. To be a defender champion requires a different focus, away from yourself. Another oddity.

Ultimately, this boils down to the question: Is there a way to be both? Or is that trying to be Jekyll and Hyde? And if there isn’t which one do you want to be?

I don’t know. Do you?

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