We’ve all got goals in cycling, whether we simply want to have fun, get (or stay) fit, win a local club race or make it to the highest level of the sport. And with any goal comes the potential for both success and failure — to reach the goal you’ve striven for, or to fall short.
But what happens when achieving your goals doesn’t provide the satisfaction you thought it might? Is it a case of finding loftier goals? Or do we need to reevaluate how we define success?
CyclingTips caught up with reigning Oceania champion and two-time Australian U23 road champion Shannon Malseed (Holden Women’s Cycling) to learn more about her journey of self-discovery as she builds towards the Australian Road Nationals in her home town of Ballarat. We hope you enjoy the video above and story (and photos) below.
Words by Shannon Malseed | Photos by Paul Spurling | Video by Kintaro Studios
Success. It’s what we all strive for. From the day we are born we are taught that you are meant to work towards success, and that if you achieve success, you will be happy. Simple. Set a goal, work towards it, reach it, be happy.
But what we eventually learn is that sometimes we don’t reach the goal. Failure. Disappointment. Worthlessness. These are all feelings you may have felt in the past. I certainly have.
For me, success has always been measured by results, and validated by other people’s reactions. If I win a race, my dad, coach, boyfriend, friends and followers all validate my success. If I lose a race, in my mind, the same crowd will validate my failure.
In 2016, things were a little different. I strived for success so many times and found myself unhappy no matter what the result. If I achieved my goal, sadness. If I failed, sadness.
I also realised that my friends and family supported me 100% no matter what the result. Even when I contemplated giving up cycling, they were still there for me.
I spent four-and-a-half months away from Australia this year, racing in Europe and America. I had the time of my life, but I also became depressed and lost all motivation. I had to re-evaluate when I came back home. I thought a lot about why the hell I even ride my bike. What am I doing it for? What am I doing with my life? What is the purpose of life?
What I learned is that success is not a measurable entity, and it does not bring happiness. You may find that, even after achieving “great success”, you wake up the next morning, or a few weeks or months later, and find that you are just the same person with the same worries, problems, and stressors in your life. You find that, even though you are “successful” and you have all these people around you to validate that status, you remain the same.
My point is that success does not define you. You create goals and strive towards them — an important process in life — but whether or not you reach that goal, come close or completely miss that goal, you are still you. For me it is about the journey towards the goal, rather than the outcome itself.
Previously I found motivation, dedication, and happiness from external sources — family, friends, social media — but couldn’t understand why I was still so unhappy. I know now that you have to find these things inside yourself for them to be real.
One of the biggest and best changes I made a few years ago was moving to Ballarat, moving out of home and away from those huge support networks I had built up throughout my life. I was a tiny little fish in what I thought was a pond the size of the ocean. Two years on I can comfortably call Ballarat my home.
At the moment I am training hard to be the best I can be for the Australian Road Nationals, here in my adopted hometown of Ballarat. In the past I have had success here, winning the U23 road race and criterium title in 2015 — an amazing feeling to have everything fall into place in one weekend. My 2016 Nationals campaign didn’t work out nearly as well and I was left feeling pretty crappy afterwards.
Since then I have improved mentally and physically, and I’m feeling good on and off the bike. I’ve learned to work on the “controllables” and trust that the results will come.
Cycling is a very unpredictable sport. It doesn’t just take strength and tactical nous to win a race, but also a lot of luck. My approach to Nationals is a week-by-week, day-by-day, minute-by-minute process. I know that within each day I have small process goals that will get me increasingly closer to achieving my final goal.
If I don’t achieve my goal at Nationals in January I know I did everything I could to get me as close as possible. It might just be that there was a better bike rider on that particular day, and that is ok.
I no longer define success simply by whether I win or not.