EXTRA,  January 2024,  View from the Water

Swimming goals? Think of the bigger picture

Simon Griffiths suggests reflecting on the bigger picture when setting your swimming goals for the year

January is a traditional time for setting goals for the year and reviewing our longer-term plans. If you’re a swimmer, these might involve swimming. Maybe you want to swim faster or complete a particular swim. You dutifully write down the goal and create a plan to work towards it.

You might then watch the news and, perhaps, feel despair about the state of the world. While we’re destroying our planet and wars rage around us, trying to swim a little faster seems trivial. Nobody cares and it won’t make any difference to anyone but you (and it might not make much difference to you either).

So why bother?

Consider the long-term personal benefits

Well, maybe it’s more important than you first think. An ordinary, humdrum life, free from the depravations of war or tyranny, where you can choose what you do with your time, is something millions of people aspire to. It’s a gift we need to be deeply grateful for and to use wisely. Using it to swim, is a good choice. It’s a powerful demonstration of the value of living with freedom and in peace.

Secondly, consider the long-term personal benefits. Yes, swimming slightly faster or further this year is unimportant. However, the act of trying, and the process you follow is. Whether or not you achieve your goal doesn’t really matter. But staying active, maintaining or building your strength, and looking after your health and wellbeing, are important. While we can’t guarantee our health and future physical independence, we can increases our chances. Setting and working towards our trivial annual goals serves an important lifetime objective – being healthy and active for as long as possible, which has societal as well as personal benefits.

Swimmers are a force for good

Also, swimmers can be a force for good. Swimmers, along with other water users, have been instrumental in raising awareness of water pollution and making it an election issue. The passion to campaign and get involved comes from our love of swimming and being in the water – a love that is reinforced by setting goals connected to swimming. In addition, because swimming helps us stay healthy, we have the energy to be activists as well.

Finally, swimming unites people around the world and brings them together through events and swim travel. It’s so much better to race someone in the water than to fight them. Competition and travel breed friendship, tolerance and understanding. Sadly it’s not enough to stop war, but maybe it makes a difference.

So, go ahead and set your swimming goals for the year, and don’t worry if they seem small and selfish. When you look at the bigger picture, they are more important than they first seem. And if we all make a small difference, then big things happen.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.