Have you ever felt like something was holding you back from being who you really want to be, or doing what you really want to do?
We all face challenges and difficulties. But how we handle them–that’s the key to our triumph, or failure. Failure or success can sometimes hinge on something as simple as deciding to act.
Obviously, there are many, many parallels to what’s going on in London today. The “Games of the XXX Olympiad”, also known as the summer Olympics, are on again, and it seems like every time I turn on the TV, there is some amazing story about the difficulties some of these athletes had to overcome to participate.
There is the Irish gymnast, Kieran Behan, who was told not once, but twice, that he’d never walk again. He is, instead, an Olympic gymnast, defying the doctors’ dire predictions and the odds against him.
Then there is John Orozco, an American from the Bronx, who had to work during training to help his parents pay the mortgage, and who, two years ago, suffered a nasty tear to his Achilles tendon. That’s a devastating injury, yet today he’s one of the top athletes on the USA men’s gymnastics team.
These are just two of the stories we’ve seen this past weekend; stories which inspire, and which make our own little problems seem rather self-indulgent.
I have battled plantar fasciitis for over a year now, and I somehow injured my foot to the point where I have a huge lump on the top as well. It makes walking (especially in the morning) painful, and sometimes I get discouraged about not being able to walk long distances or walk on the beach without shoes–and we’re not even touching on my inability to run without pain.
About the time I start feeling sorry for myself, I think about athletes like Goldie Sayers, who is competing at the highest level of sport, throwing the Javelin in the Olympics despite a torn ligament in her elbow. Or what about the one-armed table-tennis phenom, Natalia Partyka from Poland, who–despite her “disability”–has already won her opening match?
Natalia says of her Olympic experience, “Maybe someone will see me and realize that their own disability is not the end of the world.”
These stories don’t just touch our hearts. They also inspire.
They inspire us to be better than we think we can be. They inspire us to try, instead of complain.
They inspire us to believe.
The Olympics aren’t simply a showcase of the best athletes in the world; they’re also, many times, a showcase of people with more raw courage than one would think is humanly possible.
Last night, my daughters, husband and I were watching the women’s gymnastics qualifiers, and a stunningly talented vaulter by the name of McKayla Maroney was competing for the US. There was a lot of talk about the broken big toe that she had aggravated by accidentally kicking a beam during practice in London. How many people who, when breaking a toe, complain of the pain and limp around pathetically? Yet there was McKayla, not walking, but running full-tilt and throwing her body into the air in a vault that earned her the top score in the event, a 15.900. Only one other Olympic athlete managed to match that score last night; it was her own teammate, Gabrielle Douglas, who isn’t nursing a broken toe.
When, prior to the event, she was asked whether the pain of the injury was going to stop her from doing her best, McKayla apparently quipped, “It’s a toe. And this is the Olympics.”
I love that line. It really highlights what the Olympic Spirit is all about.
Your Monday Challenge is this:
Think of some obstacle that is standing in your way from doing something. Next, no matter how scary it is, take one step, however small, toward overcoming the difficulty.
Perhaps, like me, you have an injury that is keeping you from doing something you want to do–like trying to run when you have plantar fasciitis. Maybe you have given up on a dream because of something someone else told you. Maybe you didn’t try, because of an old belief rooted in your past.
None of that matters. Today matters. You can do what you choose to do, simply by deciding to give it try.
One of my favorite quotes is by Tom Hanks: “From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.”
- If you have an old injury, get a second opinion. If you already did that, get a third. Better yet, try a new doctor. Or, try a new therapy. Look up some alternative treatments. Google or YouTube it.
- If you were told you’re a terrible writer, take a new class. Try a different style of writing. Take out a notebook, and just write whatever is in your brain, just for practice. Let yourself be you! Or, simply take a new class from a different teacher. (Note: a college teacher once told me I was a terrible writer, and I got a C in her class on writing for newspapers–despite the fact that I was working FOR the local newspaper at the time. However insane her comments, and inaccurate, they still haunted me for years!)
- If you were told you “can’t” do something (travel alone, learn a new language, take up an instrument, dance), look up classes online and sign up for an introductory lesson so that you can’t back down due to fear.
That group of people who would tell you “NO” really have no business telling you what you can and cannot do. If you want to bungee-jump or skydive, DO IT. Your life is yours to live–no one else’s. And if you feel like your nerve is faltering, look up any of the Olympians I mentioned above, and let their example guide you.
You won’t know what you are capable of until you try. You don’t want to get to the end of this life saying, “I wish I had…”