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Are you nervous or hesitant about setting yourself the big goal of becoming an elite swimmer? Don’t be. The fact that you already have a big goal is amazing! Many people don’t even have that; they lack ambition. So if you’re at the point where you’re figuring out how on Earth you can reach your goal – you’re already on your way. If you’re willing to put in the rest of the work, you can get real results.

Becoming an elite swimmer might seem like a pipe dream but – as all top swimmers will tell you – it is entirely possible.

You just need to find and combine the two ingredients we all have inside us: focus and determination.

If you want to get to that elite level, it’s going to be tough. You’ll cry, you’ll be exhausted, you’ll feel pain. Accept that. Once you’ve accepted that, it will be so much easier to detach yourself from the difficulties when they happen and maintain your focus. We need that singular, piercing focus to pull us through the hard times and grinding, rigorous 5 am practices. Just breathe, centre yourself and remember: you’ll get to where you want to be – however long it takes you to get there.

But focus alone is not enough. Setting your sights on something is good, and you’ll also need the determination to push you across the finish line. Willpower, resolve and strength of character are things that can be learned, so don’t worry if you haven’t got them yet. In fact, you’ll build them up more strongly through experience, so just dive right in and test your limits!

Each time you get a knock, rise to the challenge and build yourself up again. Perseverance pays off. Success is no accident.

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So, with that said, here are our top tips to get that winning mentality:

1. Voice your goal. Be proud of it – and accountable for it. Telling other people about your goal makes it real, and makes you more likely to follow through with it. Don’t keep it private! It’s beautiful to aim high!

2. Set small doable goals, leading to your big one. These can be as simple as improving a certain swimming technique, changing a certain lifestyle habit, spending a little bit longer on that land-based workout. Mark these all on a clear, colour-coded calendar. Give them deadlines and give them your full attention. You’ll be more motivated to continue to your main objective, ticking these off and getting small hits of satisfaction along the way. Set reminders of your goals on your phone and use apps to track your progress.

3. Celebrate the small wins! Don’t just mark the big victories: make a point of celebrating each small step of your journey – whether that’s by booking a restaurant, going on a day trip, or buying yourself a shiny new swimsuit. Reward yourself for your efforts and be as kind to yourself as you are strict on yourself!

4. Get daily inspiration. Stick pictures of your idols, personal bests and favourite motivational quotes on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, your locker. Change your desktop, homepage, password and phone background to something inspirational. Watch inspirational movies, read inspirational books, listen to inspirational podcasts: you’ll learn so much and be motivated to stay on track.

5. Visualise your success: spend a couple of minutes every day – maybe before you go to sleep – with your eyes closed, visualising yourself nailing a turn, touching the wall, lifting a trophy. Think of the muscles you would use in the water, the noise of the crowd, the smell of the chlorine, the feel of the goggles on your face, the victory speech you would give. Doing this will condition your brain to see, hear, and feel the success in your mind. The power of visualisation is real: put your scepticism away and try it!

6. Surround yourself with positive voices and cheerleaders. No elite swimmer got there on their own: they all had a team of people around them supporting them, keeping them in check, and helping them regain focus if they lose it. Select your social circle carefully: they should be people who you trust 100% and who have your best interests at heart. Trust them and listen to their advice (especially your coach!). They might know you better than you think.

7. If you fall short of a goal, hit a wall, or sink into a negative slump: don’t worry. It happens. Take a break. Sometimes, all you need is some down time to meditate (mindfulness and therapy apps are great!), rest and fall back in love with your goal. Have a week off where you don’t set any targets for yourself: swim for pleasure, not for results. When you’re back in love with the water, that inner drive will soon kick in and you’ll find your flow again. That morning practice will start exciting you again instead of deflating you!

Have you tried any of these? Have they worked for you? Can you think of any other winning tips?

Let us know in the comments below – and good luck on your journey!

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