Learning to Enjoy Competitions by brannen dorman

This past weekend I competed in a Fitness Competition for the first time in two years. As I walked from the warm-up area to the competition floor for the first event I was flooded with all sorts of emotions - I experienced excitement, anxiety, confidence, vulnerability and true happiness all within a 2-minute walk to the arena. The feeling of being on the floor reminded me how much I missed competing and why I did it in the first place. The experience this time around, though, was much different for me than in the past. For the first time I was able to thoroughly enjoy the event, the competition and the environment without being tied to the outcome. For years, I could only actually enjoy the competition if I was on the winning end. This, of course, often left me frustrated and angry after every loss - which happened often. I would question why I was training so hard just to be so disappointed by each loss. As a coach, I regularly work with athletes that have the same mindset. As I reflect on the weekend at the Granite Games, I wanted to share some thoughts on my experience and how I learned to enjoy competition even when I am not standing on the podium at the end of the event.

Don’t be tied to any outcome

This past weekend at the Granite Games our Training Think Tank team finished in 6th place overall. I have never had more fun competing with a group of individuals in my life. We laughed, bled, struggled through workouts, fell on our faces (literally), outperformed expectations on some and underperformed on others. And through it all, the good and bad, I enjoyed every moment. For years I tied my self worth to the outcome on the competition floor. When I lost, my confidence would disintegrate and I would often feel embarrassed by my performance. However, this time around, though I wish we would have been on the podium, I enjoyed every single aspect of competing.

The best piece of advice that was given all weekend was this: “Don’t be tied to any outcome”. Far too often we only tie ourselves to the outcome of competition. If we win, we feel fulfilled. If we lose, grave disappoint ensues. Too often we lose sight of all the other components that make competition worth it to begin with. By only tying ourselves to the smallest part of competition, the outcome, we lose sight of the fuller experience that is before us. Learning to enjoy the process, the progress that is made, the betterment of self, the discipline achieved, and the sacrifice that was given to make it to where you are, one can still enjoy the act of competition even in the face of a loss. Don’t get me wrong, champions always have a great desire to win, and there is nothing wrong with being disappointed with a loss. However, true competitors can feel both desires. Ultimately, we should compete to gain knowledge, improve our skill, have fun, and seek excellence in our craft. At the end of the day, our desire to compete should be driven by the desire to better ourselves and those around us and not only on the result of the scoreboard. If we win AND our able to enjoy the process, we have gained more than we ever could have from just being focused on the outcome of the competition itself.

The process is greater than the outcome

I played football from the age of 7 through the age of 22. If I were to total up the number of hours I was involved in a football practice it would be somewhere around 10,000 hours, or 416 FULL days worth. All of that practice was spent focusing on the game that was to be played. With that said, if I were to total up the actual amount of time I played football, in a game, it would total up to around 3 hours of total game playing time (length of play {usually around 5.5 seconds} x total plays in game {around 60} x number of games played). So, only three ten thousandths of my dedicated football time was spent actually playing football. The majority of the time - 99.9997%, to be exact - was spent preparing for the game itself. Most sports are similar - think about the Olympics, for example. The majority of your time will always be spent preparing for the competition itself, instead of actually competing. And just like with other things in life, where the most time is spent, the most can be learned. Valuable life lessons can be learned in the day to day grind of training. Learning how to enjoy the training process can be invaluable in helping you properly prepare for the competition itself. When you take pressure off the outcome of the competition and put more stock in the journey, you will often find yourself performing even better. And on the days where you perform poorly, you can still enjoy competing because you know you have improved yourself, your body, your mind and your character through the requisite training it took to get to that point. Allow the process of preparation teach you how to be a better person, athlete, coach, father, mother, and friend, instead of collapsing all values into a single goal of defeating others on the field of play. By doing so, you can extend yourself beyond wins and losses and ground yourself in a vision of larger purpose and meaning - see one of my previous post on this topic HERE.


Earlier I stated that we finished in 6th place this past weekend, with plenty of ups and downs. At the beginning of the weekend we created the motto that I touched on above - don’t be tied to any outcome. We all made a conscious choice to enjoy the weekend, compete as hard as we could, leave it all out on the floor, and to be okay with whatever happened. We often performed better than we did in practice, but there were other times where we underperformed, by a lot. In both scenarios our enjoyment of the moment didn’t change. We didn’t tie our happiness to the sole success of placing at the competition. Instead, we placed our enjoyment in the process that got us to the place we were at. While we may have wanted a podium spot, and there is some disappointment with our performances in certain workouts, we all have taken pride in the process that got us to that point. We have all improved our body, our mind and our character over the past months through training for this competition and that is the mark of true success.

~ Brannen

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Brannen Dorman

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