In high school, I was on the girls’ swim team and every year, we would dread the day when our coach would walk on the pool deck and declare it – Gut Check Day. There was never any warning because otherwise, no one would show up.
Gut Check Day is pretty much like it sounds. The entire practice was dedicated to how far you could push yourself. The model was simple. We started with five sets of 100 yards freestyle every one minute and 45 seconds. Then, five more at one minute and 40 seconds. Then, five more at one minute and 35 seconds. And, so on. You could stop when you missed the time.
So at first, it’s easy-peasy. But as time went on, the more tired you’d get and the faster you’d have to swim.
It was all about testing your limits. How much further can you push yourself, when your legs and lungs are burning and your arms are about to fall off?
Gut Check Day IRL
The truth is, we all have Gut Check Day – especially as business owners. There are days you just want to stay in bed. Days when you want to give up because it’s hard. Days you just want to quit, because, let’s face it, it would be so much easier.
But, in your heart of hearts, you know you’d only be letting yourself down.
Much like back in my swim days, Gut Check Day comes unannounced. And, it’s usually not so bad – at first. Maybe you lost a big client or a deal went awry. Or, you got a bad review. “I got this,” you say to yourself.
But, then as time goes on and things get worse, it gets more painful. “This sucks,” you now say to yourself. This is when the real test begins.
In the swim Gut Check, during those last 100 yard swims, I kept going only by shoring up my focus. When the idea of another 100 was too much, I’d focus on each length of the pool, each flip-turn, each push off – with only the goal of getting across the pool.
“Just nail this turn… give this push off everything you have… finish this length strong…” These were the words I’d say in my head.
“The pain is temporary,” I’d remind myself. “When you’re done with this hell, you can go eat dinner.”
People cheered me on from the pool deck, but I had to be the biggest, baddest cheerleader for myself. I know this strategy works because I broke the record for Gut Check Day.
In real life, when you get overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done, the setbacks feel too great and you feel like you’re being tested, it’s time to pull in your focus and cheer for yourself.
Your only job is to make that next call, send that email, or set up that meeting.
Your only job is to tell yourself to keep going.
You’re stronger than you think you are.