Here are some things that most swimmers aren’t willing, or aren’t ready, to do to swim at an elite level–

1. Do Extra.

Surely you’ve heard the quote: “The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is that little bit extra.” Haven’t heard it? Really? Here is it for you again, in italics, because that way it makes way more sense:

“The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is that little bit extra.”

Whatever what you think of former professional football player Ray Lewis and his escapades off the football field, there is no denying that he is a master motivator. While speaking to a group of b-ball players at Stanford he said something that resonates well with this point.

Wins and losses come a dime a dozen. But effort? Nobody can judge effort. Effort is between you and you. Effort ain’t got nothing to do with nobody else. So that team that thinks they’ve already seen you? They think what they’ve seen on film. Because every day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment.

Will you be willing to show up early? To stay late? To do the little bit (or a lot) extra that will separate you from the competition?

2. Use Failure as Tackling Fuel

You know how Adam Sandler’s chracter in the Water Boy had his tackling fuel? (If you have not seen this movie, please drop what you are doing and invest a couple hours into this movie.) Sandler’s character would imagine all of the people that had tormented him, ridiculed him, and stepped on him, and then channel those memories into motivation to sack the living daylights out of the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage. It worked for Bobby Boucher, and it can work for you.

You have your own tackling fuel. It’s the cuts you almost made, the team you should have qualified for, that medal you coulda, woulda, shoulda earned. Use your past mistakes and failures to send you hurtling forwards. Failure should propel and motivate you, not define you.

3. Stop Making Excuses.

My goggles filled up with water. My head hurts. The battery in my iPad is dead. The back of my Speedo is see-through. Blah blah blah. Our brains are amazing at certain things, not the least of which is seeking the easiest way to do something. It’s simply the way we are wired. We are perpetually looking for the easy way out, and if that means holding on to that “I have a cold” excuse for one extra day so that we can miss an extra morning practice, you know that piece of mush between your ears will hold on to it.

4. Make Excellence Habitual.

In a culture where mediocrity is tolerated and even celebrated, making excellence a habit can make you seem out to be a “try hard” or an “eager beaver” or something else that fits nicely into air-quotes. Sure, it sounds exhausting to do everything at your best. But it is nothing like the tiredness and lethargy that comes from perpetually acting at half capacity, and certainly doesn’t compare to the consistent dullness and pain of untapped potential and half-baked results.

5. Fully Commit.

Yeah, not achieving our goals is scary. But you know what is scarier? Spiders crawling across your face when you are sleeping. (Sorry.) In all seriousness, the only thing that is tangibly worse than failing at trying to achieve your goals is not trying at all.

Yeah, we all have commitment issues with our goals. Stop over-thinking them, and start putting in small steps to give them an honest go. Besides, the best part about making a full, 100% exclusive commitment to your goals is that everything suddenly becomes black and white. There is no middle ground anymore, no room for compromise. Your actions are either in pursuit of your goals, or they are holding you back.