Gretchen Bleiler for espnW.com “Creativity over competition: A year of change”
This season will be my 10th as a professional snowboarder. … Wow, has it really been that long?! The decade has flown by, yet at the same time, so much has happened — from the frustrating experience of learning how to compete; to breaking through that barrier and figuring it out; to achieving success and managing everything that accompanies it; to injury, comebacks, setbacks, victories and disappointments; to the highs and the lows, and learning how to live in the in-between. Snowboarding has really shaped the person I’ve become, and I consider every moment a good one because every one has led me to where I am now.
Change can be uncomfortable and scary. But I believe change exists to teach us to appreciate and enjoy the right now. Life is short, and if we enjoy every moment of every day, then we will be happy no matter what happens or what changes along the way. And let’s face it, we would all be so bored if things always stayed the same; we would never learn, we would never grow.
And that’s where I am right now: a time of change. For most of my career, my goals have been based around snowboarding results. I’m a competitor, and since I was 2 years old, I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. This mindset (plus a whole lot of determination) has helped me accomplish almost every single one of my athletic goals up to this point (there is one result that I have not yet attained … but that’s another blog altogether!). And I’ve found that as you grow, your goals and motivation to achieve those goals need to grow with you. The 20-year-old Gretchen definitely had an “I’ve got something to prove” mentality that fueled her fire. The 29-year-old Gretchen is equally as competitive, but she doesn’t derive her sense of self-worth from her results on the halfpipe. After 10 years, I’m very happy to say that I know who I am now … woo hoo! And I think what I’ve come up with is that it’s time for a mental shift.
Along the way, I’ve gotten into a bit of a competitive rut, and it’s because I’ve figured out what it takes to win. I know what run I must throw to stand on top of that podium. Being the competitor that I am, why would I stray from a winning formula? Why would I mix it up if there’s a possibility that it could mean making a mistake? This mentality is called perfection, and perfection can kill whatever creativity is inside of you. It’s time for me to stop seeking perfection and bring back the creativity instead. This is the change I’m looking for. This is the new motivation that will fuel my fire.
Perfection is a powerful beast. So I must make some changes (that is, take some scary steps) to quiet the beast down! I’ve always said that the scariest steps bring about the greatest reward because they mean you’re stretching your comfort zone and creating a higher existence for yourself. This is something I learned when I was a senior in high school and, in a change of (life) plans, decided to forgo college in favor of trying to become a professional snowboarder. I feel like I’m in a similar redirecting-for-the-better position now. So I’ve decided to eliminate most of the halfpipe competitions from my schedule this season.
Just as the decision I made in high school wasn’t easy, this one isn’t, either. Competing in the halfpipe is what I know and love, and what I’ve been great at for the past 10 years, which is exactly why it’s time to forge into this new territory. It’s time to learn and time to grow. Seeing snowboarding differently, seeing the mountain differently, and riding with creativity and style — that’s my new goal. And the steps I’ll take to get there will be riding more than ever, pushing myself more than ever and learning more than ever. It kind of looks like it’s time to bring it back to the way it all began for me, and I’m really excited. I’m a little uncomfortable, and a little scared, but that just means I’m on the right path … a path that might just lead me to that one last elusive achievement, too.
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