At The Race Club we speak often about the importance of mental toughness in excelling in swimming races. We outline five important steps that are essential in developing mental toughness, or what we refer to as the ‘killer instinct’. We start with goal setting. Goal setting is a vital part of the process of success. After all, you cannot get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going. For the most successful swimmers, those that compete in the Olympic Games or World Championships, there is more to their success than just goal setting. They are each on a mission. Mission comes from the Latin word ‘mittere’ which means to send. Olympic athletes do not simply feel that getting to or winning at the Olympic Games is a goal of theirs. No, it is more than that. It has become their mission. When a goal becomes more than a goal, when it becomes a mission, in essence, it defines who that person is. The goal is no longer simply a desire of the athlete to get better, but by becoming a mission, it encompasses the entire being of the athlete; his or her body, mind, and spirit. In the biblical sense, I think of a mission as either a Catholic church in California that Father Junipero Serra was sent to establish, or I think of a Mormon being sent out into the world to spread his or her faith. Mission is not limited to the biblical or the spiritual interpretation. No company in the world has ever achieved success without having a mission statement, nor without a strategic plan of how they will carry out that mission. The mission statement essentially defines the company and the plan defines the process of reaching the goals. The plan may change over time. Even the goals may change. The mission statement of the company should remain the same. Otherwise, if the mission changes, we are talking about a different company. In Lane 4 of The Race Club, we do online coaching where we make certain that each swimmer establishes his or her goals for the season and has a proper plan in place to get there. To do so, we try to shore up any weaknesses in the five important disciplines of swim training, strength training, mental training, nutrition, and recovery. In the past, I have written about Path A and Path B swimmers, those that are ‘all in’ in the sport of swimming vs those that do so for health, camaraderie and fun. Even among the Path A swimmers, by the end of one season of online coaching, we can usually determine which swimmers are just setting goals and which ones are on a mission. Swimmers on a mission will nearly always perform better. If swimming fast should become your mission, rather than your goal, that does not mean you need to set your sights on winning an Olympic medal. It simply means that you were sent here to become the best swimmer that you can be. Swimmers on a mission will show the greatest commitment to reaching their goals. They will not allow setbacks or bad swims to get in their way. Rather, they will learn from them and become even more committed to their mission. To achieve happiness, you must know who you are. To know who you are, you must understand your mission. If your mission is to swim fast, great. Pursue that mission with passion and with a plan. We are here to help you do that. This week in Lanes 1-4 we released a comprehensive and complementary webisode on dolphin kick that explains some of the nuances of this important facet of swimming. We hope you will enjoy and benefit from this webisode. Yours in swimming, Gary Sr.