We all like to win—to cross that finish line—once we’ve put ourselves in a competition.
We all like to achieve our goals once we set them. And doing so is, indeed, important no matter if you compete against yourselves or against others. You want to know you have done your best and achieved what you set out to achieve—losing 10 pounds, finding a new job, publishing a book, find a spouse, buying a house, getting a raise or promotion, running a marathon, getting to the Olympics.
But some people put winning, or achieving their goal, above anything else. This leaves them with an unmet goal in the end. You have to ask, “What’s the point, really?”
Lance Armstrong is a great example.
He finally admitted he took performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times. The cyclist was stripped of his Tour titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a report that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme. He was also stripped of his 2000 Olympic bronze medal.
Armstrong survived cancer and has thousands, maybe millions, of people wearing his yellow Livestrong bracelets and looking up to him as a role model—or did. Now he is perceived as a liar. Not only that, the goal he achieved—winning seven Tour de France races—could be perceived as never achieved at all. Yes, he crossed the finish line but not on his own power. He had help. We are left to wonder if he could have done it without performance enhancing drugs, and he probably wonders the same.
In the movie The Words a struggling writer finds a novel and ends up saying it is his own, getting it published and becoming famous. Subsequently, his other works get published. The original author of the novel finds him, and he must live with the repercussions of not only living a lie but of knowing he really never wrote something worthy of publication. Like Armstrong, he achieved his success with a form of “performance enhancing drug”; in this case someone else’s manuscript helped him cross the finish line. He knows the truth—he never really achieved his goal—and must live with it.
It’s important to have goals and to achieve them. The means by which you do so, however, are just as important. Be sure you truly achieve what you set out to achieve and that you can live with the way in which you win the race. Be sure it is really you—and your own pure performance—that propels you across the finish line. Then you can live with that achievement proudly for the rest of your life.