The Art of Giving 100%: Why Comparison is the Thief of Joy

With the Open in full swing, with it's fun but competitive spirit lurking around gyms all over the world and asking everyone to deliver their best every week, we thought this was a perfect time to talk about something that we've been thinking about a lot lately. What does it mean to give 100%? And why are we so quick to tell ourselves we are somehow at a disadvantage, or that others are somehow at an advantage over us?

Whether or not you're competing in the Open, if you've ever attempted to challenge yourself at anything, you've likely heard this voice in your head; The one that says "I guess I did ok, but I would have done better if I {enter excuse}", or the voice that says, "Sure she did better than I did, but it's only because she {enter some other excuse}". We're here to tell you that this kind of thinking HAS GOT TO END. You'll be a happier and better athlete, friend, businesswoman, and partner because of it. 

What got us all worked up about this?

We recently attended a seminar taught by Andrea Ager, and something she mentioned has stuck with us ever since. In the beginning of her speech to the room full of athletes, she got visibly emotional, and stated that no one ever likes to say that they gave 100% at anything. Why? Because they're scared. What they're scared of might differ from person to person, but often it's because they're scared that their best just wasn't good enough. 


And we understand that entirely. That's a scary thing! Having it posed this way was especially interesting to us, and since we've been thinking about this concept since she spoke those words, we've started to notice moments that are indicative of this phenomenon appear out of the woodwork of our daily lives. It's all around us, all the time, and we're just as guilty as the next guy for letting it happen.

We get it. It's easy to say that you were slow in that timed mile run because of your bad knee. Or that you would of had a better Olympic lifting session had you slept more last night. Or that you suffer through rowing and wall balls because you're short. And you may have even once or twice (or a lot of times) also carried this mentality over onto other athletes, with either thinking (or saying out loud) that they performed better than you did at that run because they're longer legged than you. Or they were faster at the pull-up workout because they have a lighter body weight than you do. Or they got more rounds than you because they weren't up all night with a crying baby. And the list goes on. 

If you have ever found yourself after a workout, Open event, (or 5k, competition, marathon, meet, or any other challenge whatsoever, big or small) thinking that someone has a distinct advantage over you because they are fresh/ rested/ tall/ short/ light/ heavy/ more flexible/ less flexible/ etc etc etc, have a seat. We need to chat.

Stop it! If nothing else, please stop saying to your fellow athletes or competitors why you think they were at an advantage- even if it's completely lighthearted in spirit. We mean it. This kind of talk has got to end, and it is a TOTAL back handed compliment. For example, Taylor recently completed a workout that involved a lot of handstand pushups, and even though they've always been a strong move for her, she completely exceeded her expectations in this one instance and rightly felt very proud about her performance. Not long after the workout was done, a friend jokingly said that if they "also had short arms and light body weight, they'd be that good at handstand pushups too"; a type of comment that if you listen for, you'll hear a lot in Crossfit boxes everywhere, and you may have even uttered yourself. While these comments are rarely meant to insult, and are almost always said with a smile and a "good job", they are also severely undercutting and negative. What you're essentially saying is that they beat you because of factors that are entirely outside of their own hard work and athletic merit, and that, my friends, is an insult to anyone. 

But what's more than that, these comments are an insult to yourself! By immediately focusing on what you didn't do so well at on this one particular day, you are completely belittling your own accomplishments. CrossFit is HARD and you should be gleaming with pride after every completed workout or lift! Thinking that you only did 55 pounds when everyone else was doing 75, or you could "only" hit 70% of your max, or you couldn't row as fast as your teammate who has those super long legs, or any variation of "I wasn't as good as the rest of them" is absolutely a crime against yourself! (Side rant: Can we stop using the word "only" altogether?)

And it works the other way too: Thinking that you only did well in that WOD because it had lots of rowing and wall balls which are easier for you because you're tall, is doing yourself a huge disservice. You did well in that WOD because you worked your ass off! You deserve to feel good about it, with no asterisk, subtext, or follow-up excuse of any kind. Kapish?

So why do we do this?  It's only natural to want to justify our weaknesses, right? And often times it's very true! After all, short legs are a major disadvantage in rowing. Light body weight is an advantage at handstand push ups. But why can't we just congratulate our teammates or ourselves for a job well done, without thinking that we didn't do as well just because we're shorter or heavier? I'll tell you why: We are terrified to admit that we gave 100%, and that it wasn't good enough. 

Here's something that's important to remember: What your "100%" looks like changes day to day, and is heavily influenced by every aspect and factor in your life. Are you really OK with your day to day 100% effort? Of course that shoulder injury will slow you down, but are you still giving the best you've got, regardless of that, and feeling proud? Or are you using that injury as a crutch to not deliver your best, and making excuses instead? There's a difference, and it starts and ends with the way you look at, think about it and talk about it.

Do you have to deliver 100% every single day at everything? Of course not! All we're asking is that you do not make excuses for yourself, don't justify your weaknesses by comparing yourself to others and pointing out your disadvantages, don't cut others down because of your insecurities, and don't cut yourself down and belittle your own amazing accomplishments and hard work! Everyone has weaknesses and strengths, and especially in the sport of Crossfit, it's all relative. What might be someone's advantage in one movement is surely their disadvantage in another. Why dwell on these things when you could be using that time to think about how amazing it is that you're even challenging yourself at all? 

If you are finding yourself severely limited by a changeable aspect of your fitness (flexibility, raw strength, body weight, a specific movement, etc), the way we see it is that you have two options: either put your head down and put in the hard work to improve it (make your weakness your strength!), or simply accept it for what it is and carry on. As for the unchangeable parts of your body structure and fitness, it's time to just happily and wholeheartedly accept it for what it is (which is completely and entirely awesome because it's part of what makes you you!), and focus on other things.


So, friends, we ask this of you: Pay close attention to your internal (and external!) dialogue, especially when competing in the Open over the next few weeks. If you find yourself in a place of negative comparison, thinking that you are disadvantaged or "less than" for any reason at all, take a moment to pause and redirect your thoughts. Remind yourself that you are doing the best that you possibly can. You are giving 100% of what you're able to do at this very moment. Revel in the fact that you are even trying.

And be proud of your effort. This stuff is hard. It takes a lot of courage to give everything you have, and make no excuses for it whatsoever. Be brave and start unapologetically giving 100% every time. It may just make you better in more ways than you may even expect. Always give your best and be proud of whatever that is. And you know what? Your best is always good enough in our book.