Like many Australians this week I have been drawn to my television to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes push themselves to achieve results beyond what was previously thought possible.
The Games of the 30th Olympiad are in this day and age almost unavoidable, even if you are a person who bizarrely hates sport, which of course, I’m not.
I have played a myriad of sports in my lifetime, though not to any level that even approaches Olympic greatness, but I love it. I’m one of those reasonably good all-rounders.
At school though I could easily have been put off the whole idea…
Rather like the story of Tom Brown’s school days, my young primary school friends and I were mercilessly sent out into the snow and freezing rain, shivering in our skimpy singlets, our plimsoles being swallowed by particularly squelchy mud in the grassy green fields surrounding our Victoria College Preparatory School in Jersey, Channel Islands.
Those so-called cross-country runs are etched into my brain as stark reminders of the ‘tough love’ brand of education of yesteryear.
Nostalgia is a quirky thing though, because I now look back on those days and those experiences as ‘character-building’.
Unless you could prove you were dying of something like bubonic plague, the teachers accepted no excuses, and especially not inclement weather conditions!
For me it was like torture, yet for some gifted individuals it was their chance to shine.
Some children found that they had an unusual ability to gallop across those pastures, dodging the cow pats and leaping over barbed wire fences, somehow skipping across the muddy pools without sinking in, while others lost their shoes and socks in the quagmire.
These gazelle-like athletes blazed their way back to the school field and the comforting finish line, probably having time for a hot shower and a cuppa while I was still trying to navigate my way through the field with the bull in it!
It is in those moments of triumph where people like that find an ember of possibility, that maybe, just maybe, they could excel at that chosen sport.
Hockey was another of those sports invented by sadists, though they forgot one important detail in their grand design – that the freezing cold was your ally, because when your opponent’s stick slid up your stick and rapped you on the knuckles, you didn’t feel the pain. Well, not as much anyway, or at least until you had your hot shower and all of the bruising started to come out as the circulation returned to your almost-hypothermic body!
Anyway, back to my point – some of these people ignited a passion for a particular sport. In our house system, at our somewhat elite institution, competition was not only encouraged, it was demanded.
The will to win was instilled and people were trained to continually push the boundaries, so that those embers of possibility became burning cauldrons of desire and resolve.
We competed relentlessly with other schools, and with each other, and achievements were acknowledged at school assemblies.
So it is, with the Olympic athletes who grace our screens today. What you see is not the result of some hobby. Rather, it is the result of years of intense passion to achieve a dream, years of sacrifice, years of commitment, to strive to be the best in the world at whatever it is that they do.
That is what captures our interest and indeed our imagination, seeing in their faces the joy of victory or the agony of defeat. That saga, even at this extreme level of excellence is one to which we can all relate, even at our most basic and ordinary levels, for we ‘relatively average’ mortals also experience pleasure and pain in all of our endeavours.
It is in fact a globally televised magnification of the experience of being ‘human’.
Here is the interesting twist, however…
Each one of us has a choice in our lives. We can choose to at least strive for excellence, because even in falling short of that goal, we would probably still improve and grow from the effort.
Or we can choose to lead a life of quiet desperation – a life of ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’s’ and ‘If only’s’.
We may not all be Gold Medallists, but we can all choose to be better, faster, braver – just a little better than last time, and in the effort we can all be winners.
We can also encourage each other, so that in those moments of doubt and uncertainty there is always someone to offer a helping hand, a kind word or a smile of support.
The Olympics are so inspirational because they remind us of the great qualities that lie within us all. Admittedly some people hide those qualities so well that you could be excused for thinking them absent, yet still they are there. They just need to be appreciated and uncovered.
So I say, ‘Enjoy the Games’ but remember also that the ‘Game of Life’ continues for us all, perhaps not with medals always up for grabs, but we can all still be winners at whatever we do.
Whether your game is to be a great athlete, or a boss, a mother, father, employee, spouse, whatever… You have the choice – the choice to settle for less, or the choice to strive for more.
I wish for you to choose wisely and to remember that everyone you encounter is fighting their own inner battle, so maybe they need a little kindness.
If you need any help at all in figuring out what’s next in Your ‘Game of Life’ and how to improve your chances of winning, please feel free to contact me.
Meanwhile, have a great week , soak up that Olympic spirit and enjoy the journey.