With the Winter Olympics upon us, it is inspirational to hear the stories of the athletes who have sacrificed so much for a shot at an Olympic medal.
Every time I watch, I know these athletes have been practicing their sports since they were very small children. It is easy to imagine all the early morning practices before school, the sacrifices of time and effort, and all the ups and downs along the way.
One of my favorite sports to watch is the figure skating with its beauty, athleticism and elegance. I literally find myself holding my breath at each jump, hoping that after all those years of dedication, sacrifice and hard work, the skater will not fall.
Yet sometimes they do. Even the best and most accomplished athletes in the world sometimes fall down on the Olympic ice they have dreamed of since they were little. When they do, I always think how hard it must be for them to get back up and to catch back up with their music and get back into their program. The competition level is so elite that even I know that falling down likely has taken them out of medal contention and thus ended a long held dream.
I watch their faces when they fall, wondering, what will they do now? I find myself urging them to get right back up and continue with their program, even though I wonder if they aren’t thinking, “I blew it—what is the point of going on now?”
Thankfully, they always get back up. Most of them go on to make the next jump and the next one and finish their programs in fine fashion. I believe it is part of the mental makeup that makes them Olympic athletes in the first place.
These amazing performances under the toughest pressure in sports challenge the way I treat myself when I fail at something I have worked really hard to accomplish. Have you ever started a diet only to really blow it one day and then think to yourself, “Well, since I’ve already messed up, I might as well eat poorly the whole day?” I certainly have.
My brother, who is a certified personal trainer, tells me that thinking like that is like dropping your cell phone in the driveway, then telling yourself, “Well, since I already dropped it, I might as well back the car over it!”
What do you do when you have a disappointment? Do you give yourself permission to blow it even worse? Or can you be challenged by the mental toughness of Olympic athletes who, under the hot glare of the world’s spotlight, get back up, refocus, and continue to give their very best effort?
The next time you experience a failure, be as kind and encouraging to yourself as you are to that unknown Olympic skater who has taken a tumble on your TV screen – gently urge yourself to get back up. Keep trying! Do better on the next one.
Always keep skating!