Earlier this year, I published Tick Tock Ten. It offers an insight into a 'Deca Iron' triathlon, which I completed in 2011.
We had to swim 24 miles, cycle 1,160 miles and run 262 miles -- all over 10 days. Doing it, at an average of 16 hours a day, is going to test every ounce of you, mentally and physically. It is the same with any big ambition.
Recently I was speaking to a man in the US. As manager of a large corporate facility, he said that they often worked on huge projects that tested even the finest of his employees to the limit. I was flattered when he told me that a tip in Tick Tock Ten was now a key strategy for senior management in ensuring they reached the end of a project.
Let me explain: at lunchtime on day three of that sporting ambition, I hit a mental low. The reason was simple. My brain was having a really hard time dealing with the magnitude of the task. It reminded me that we had already been swimming and cycling for almost six hours that day and yet I was still short of the halfway point.
I was also reminded that even if I finished day three, 70pc of the project still lay ahead of me. I was very tired and so my mental resolve was now being tested. I knew I had to source a solution in my mind. After all, it is from there that the body takes direction. As General George Patton would put it: "If you're going to win any battle, you must make the mind run the body."
That afternoon, I conceived a mental trick, which I now use in sport, business and everyday life.
It involved attaching a number to my ambition. That was easy. I chose '10' to represent the 10 days we were required to complete. In a marathon, it might be 26. In your employment, it could be 12 to reflect the business year.
I realised I couldn't get to 10 without passing through three. It would be impossible. In my thoughts, I repeated over and over the mantra: 'You cannot get to 10 without passing through three. All you are doing is passing through.' I told myself that day four was irrelevant. I should only focus on what I was in control of, which was day three. I reminded myself that unexpected tests were always going to arrive at my door and that this was one. I was now being asked an extra question. 'How tough are you Gerry? Have you got what it takes?'
I realised that in an ambition of this magnitude, walls or barriers can and often do appear. This low or unexpected mental test was an invisible force trying to knock me out. The American explained that when it happens in the plant nowadays, they make a commitment to tap into a positive frame of mind. They remind themselves that they are just passing through to reach the end line.
I realised that it is always the mental part that finds the initial solution. I knew that I had to be strong. I knew I had to keep moving forward. In fact, it was a must. I sent my arms and legs a message to just keep moving. I knew that if I did so -- barring injury or withdrawal -- I would be guaranteed to reach 10.
Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete. www.gerryduffyonline.com