In late August, while we are absorbed by back to school activities and enjoying end of summer barbecues and late sunsets, we cannot ignore the coverage of the Republican National Convention. We know that soon someone will be elected president and that the other candidate will lose. We just finished watching the Summer Olympics and saw athletes get the gold, but we also saw the disappointment on some of the participants’ faces when they did not reach their goals.
In all competitions, there is a winner and a loser, but clearly, the loser often only misses by a small margin. Our perception is that winning is the only thing that matters and let’s face it, candidates that run for president fade into obscurity while the president of the United States becomes infamous. Similarly, athletes that win gold medals wind up on cereal boxes while the others go back and practice for another four years.
In our culture, a lot of attention is placed on winning. Still, those who do not win had monumental experiences. They were up on the international stage, they tried their best, they flexed muscles they did not know they had, and the experience counts for something in their lives. Whether you train for a physical event or are engaged in a competition of another sort, winning is not everything. You know the clichés about winning, but the truth is that if you never tried, you would not have had the experience, and the experience itself is priceless.
When you go for a run for the purpose of eventually completing a marathon, you are making your mark, even if you never make it to the race. You are taking good care of your body. You are fueled by enthusiasm. It is the present moment that matters, not the possibility of winning a prize in the future. Sometimes goals help us to hone experiences that add to wellness and our general zest for life, but they need not be blown out of proportion. Even if you do not win, the process of training is invaluable. Think about all you have gained by participating in life. You will find that even if you do not reach your goals, you have a wealth of positive experiences. This is especially true when it comes to physical activities. Goals are motivating, but understand that the experience is what really counts.
Last week, we talked about the inspiring Olympians and why you too should go after your passions.
The athletes give up so many things to be able to spend time in training, and they and their families often make sacrifices to pay for it. Think about it. Is there something you would like to do that you put off because you do not have the time or money?
First, in order to reach your goals, prioritization is important. There are only 24 hours in a day, so sometimes choosing to do several things does not leave enough time to do one thing really well. The Olympic athletes stop doing other things they enjoy for four years in order to set their sights on one goal.
Now, make a list of your passions. Is there one activity that stands out? If so, you may want to put off some of the other things you usually do while you achieve that one purpose. Focus on one goal this year, for example, and another goal next year. Remember, over the course of your life, you will be able to achieve many things. So devoting time to a passion now will leave time for other pursuits in the future.
Watching the Olympics these past several weeks has been inspirational. It has likely prompted many people to set new fitness goals and think about different sports. In fact, now is the perfect time to think about taking up a new sport. Tennis, anyone? Maybe you prefer to get wet. How about diving, swimming or water skiing? While the summer Olympics includes summer games, and we are more likely to see runners pounding the pavement during the warmer months, it is important to recognize that there is a winter Olympics too, so there is no excuse to sit around until the snow melts. When the weather turns cold, you can go skiing, skating or snowboarding. Join a team and play ice hockey or go sledding with your kids. There are plenty of sports around all year long. Take advantage of the different seasons to uncover the type of exercise you enjoy!
We are always inspired by what drives Olympic athletes. They dedicate four years of their lives at a time to one goal, and they often do this at young ages. They cannot for example decide to train for the Olympics years from today. They must do it now, while they are young. Olympic hopefuls are not late bloomers. They know what they want now, and they are willing to give up anything to get it. And after the one race they trained for, they may decide to do it again, and devote another four years just for the heck of it. Of course, they do not really commit to four years lightly. So, why do they do it? They are driven because they have a calling.
The athletes realize that they are meant to train and perform. They are interested in one goal, and that is to get the gold by being the best at what they do, and they will train hard, ditch their social lives, abandon fast food and forgo idle summers, all for this one thing. So, is there one thing you really want? The one thing is not necessarily an athletic goal. It could be anything. The real question is, if you do want to do something—and feel that you are meant to achieve a specific goal—what is stopping you?