Last week, while giving a corporate presentation, a member of the audience asked me a question. It related to an endurance triathlon which I was immersed in back in 2011. In that ambition, I had been trying to swim, cycle and run for an average of 16 hours per day – with the event lasting 10 days.
"Surely I must have had times when I doubled my ability to succeed," he enquired. "What did I think about during all those hours to make sure I kept going?"
In answering him, I was reminded of something very valuable that I have learned.
Years before, I had gone to a hypnotist to help me overcome a pathological fear of public speaking. It was my biggest fear.
Back in 2005, it had become a goal of mine to overcome it, but that goal presented a huge mental barrier. So I went for help.
The hypnotist got me to focus on the time I would be finished my upcoming public speaking event. I was due to speak at 3pm, so I replied "4pm".
He suggested that rather than being consumed with a fear of failure at 3pm, I should create a vision instead of what success would look like at 4pm, when I had come out the other side.
"Attach a time to your finish line," he recommended. He then strategically downplayed the magnitude of my fear and suggested that it was not as big a deal as I had been telling myself. "Focus on 4pm, not 3pm," he repeated.
Regardless of the tests that we get sent when immersed in a challenging goal, he reminded me that the universe would guarantee that 4pm would come.
"Stay strong until then. Don't focus on the negative. Imagine yourself having achieved it."
Eight years ago, it worked. Even though I doubted myself hugely, by simply creating a vision of success beyond the finish line, I managed to make it happen.
For me, overcoming that fear was one of the greatest achievements of my life.
In that sporting event in 2011, my focus became 11pm every day, because that was the time when I would be finished that day's examination paper.
That's another thing I have learned. Break your goal down into manageable quantities and bank them along the way. For me, it was 10 days, hence 10 smaller, tangible finish lines.
Many times during each day, I created a vision of where I would be at 11pm. An image of being back in the sanctuary of a sleeping bag with another box ticked always came to mind.
I knew that if I just kept moving forward (the one thing I was in control of), sooner or later, I would reach it.
If you are immersed in a goal, there may be times when you lose motivation, focus or self-belief. Close your eyes and attach a time to your finish line. Then picture yourself there. Create a vision of what that looks like and how you will feel.
Realise then that if you just keep moving forward, you will eventually reach your destination.
That finish line 'time' is coming for sure. The universe guarantees it.
Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete. www.gerryduffyonline.com