What Triathletes Can Learn From the Art of Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Ross Hartley | May 07, 2018, 3:05 p.m. (ET)

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If life is like a box of chocolates, then chasing a goal is like baking chocolate chip cookies. The steps involved with baking cookies are analogous to the process of pursuing an objective.

We’ll break down the cookie creation process into three steps:

1. Quality of Ingredients

Simply, you can’t have the best cookies if you don’t use the best ingredients. To do well at the big things in life, you have to do well with the complementary little things. The whole is made up of numerous interconnected parts — and a better whole can be created by improving the individual parts. Similarly, different inputs will lead to different outputs. Dark chocolate chips and cake mix flour will produce a very different type of cookie.

A synonym for these ingredients is habits. To do what others can’t, you must consistently and repeatedly do what others don’t. If your daily habits are exceptional, you’ll become extra-ordinary. Consistently repeated, this purposeful extra-ordinary behavior creates the habit of excellence. Talent is a gift; greatness is a choice.

2. Quantity of Ingredients

Baking cookies is an equation of adding specific ingredients together — and growth is as well. The Growth Equation is Stress + Rest + Prep = Growth [more on that here] — with the three variables being directly related. As stress increases, rest should increase, with the preparation increasing as well to produce the maximum growth. A disparity between increasing and decreasing the variables will not result in maximal, if any, growth. As with cookies, too little or too much of one ingredient can overpower and/or negate the others.

Through the lens of Event + Response = Outcome (E+R=O), your desired outcome has a required response that you must give. If you did not reach your desired outcome, that is feedback that your response (your work/training/preparation) did not meet the standard that your goal state required.

3. Bake Time and Temperature

As someone who has both burned cookies and created some very doughy center cookies, there is a fine line between not enough and too much bake time and temp. In life, clearly beginning with the end in mind and then working backward from there is essential to figuring your goal’s bake time and temperature. Creating your plan by looking through glasses where one lens is knowledge learned from the past and the other lens is your ideal state. Depending on the situation, sometimes a longer bake time at a lower temperature is ideal or a shorter bake time with a higher temperature is best. Clarity of your coveted outcome along with knowledge from the past is paramount to figuring out the optimal bake time and temperature for you goal.

Ross Hartley is currently the head coach of Future Stars Youth Triathlon and a middle school teacher. He is also a high school cross country/track and youth swimming coach. He is based out of Columbus, Ohio. 

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.