The Olympic Games are in full throttle and creating many magical moments. I’m watching friends on Snapchat having a fantastic time in Rio and I’m reminded of the wonderful buzz that surrounds an Olympic event.
I had the pleasure of working at the Sydney Olympics and attending many of the events and street parties around Sydney. I’ve never experienced such a joyful, peaceful can connected atmosphere before. It didn’t matter what colour shirts you wore, the spirit was about celebrating each other and triumphant moments.
Those moments aren’t all about winning, although we’ve seen some incredible ones: 18-year-old Kyle Chalmers coming from nowhere to win the 100m freestyle, the first for Australia since 1968; Michael Phelps, claiming his 23rd gold and demonstrating how to be the greatest; Joseph Schooling from Singapore beating his hero Phelps to win his first Gold; and Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic swimming medal.
That’s just the swimming. Van Nierkirk just smashed up the two favourites in the 400m final (amazing race) and Usain Bolt has just won his third gold medal as I write this paragraph (to be honest, I wrote it 30 minutes before he won. What can I say? I see the future clearly).
But, it’s more than just the wins, it’s the starts that are important too. Every athlete who has stepped up to the starting gun is a winner. (Even myself felt like a winner coming third in my Comm games hurdle event!! I’ve never done it before and was terrified and I didn’t even care where I came, I was ecstatic that I didn’t chicken out and gave it a go. So much strength came from that. Although I did love winning the swimming event! See more of what I’m talking about here. )
Does our self worth come from the result?
Cate Campbell was interviewed after she and her sister – the HOT favourites for a historical gold and silver in the 100-metre freestyle – didn’t place. The disappointment shone through her entire body, particularly given the intense media pressure the girls experienced as the GIVEN winners.
“I’ve always said I don’t need a gold medal to have self-worth. This is really going to test that belief for me.”
Courage even when your face is in the dirt.
I wish Kalyra was listening. So she can have role models like this – that understand winning is not about gold medals but about starting strong.
A few weeks, ago we went to watch Kalyra in her school athletics carnival. She’s not passionate about athletics and probably doesn’t have her Daddy’s athletic ability. I think Savannah may have that. Kalyra is more a creative in her own space. She hates people watching her and being in the spotlight.
We didn’t pressure her to go in any races, leaving the decision up to her but encouraging her to do her best and to have fun. She decided the 800m wasn’t for her, but volunteered to go in the 100m and 200m. She did her best and had fun.
The start is where you find the self-worth
On the way home all I could think of was her amazing spirit. I wasn’t interested in the finishing line or where she came. That was not the picture in my head.
The image was of her start.
Standing there with her fear of falling over, her shadow of doubt about her worth and ability, the aching insecurity of how she would look and what people might think.
The gnawing of her fingernails as she waited to start showed her fragility and vulnerability.
But, amidst all that she still stepped up and waited for the gun to signal it was time to start. Then she ran with all of that fear and insecurity for 200m. I saw it shrouding her with the slight hunch of her shoulders, but she kept running.
She triumphed over all those emotions that for many of us as adults we use as an excuse not to start. We’ve been conditioned to think purely of the finish. How we cross the line and what medal we receive and how we compare to others.
So we never start. Our doubts and fears far too great for us to risk vulnerability to have a go and perhaps come last.
Even if you do come last, at least you started.
The starting is where you gather the strength to stretch out the comfort zones and where you learn a little more about yourself, what you’re good at, what you can refine, and how you can be better. It gives you a little more courage and confidence to start again tomorrow.
In not starting, we lose all of this, but most of all we lose the self-esteem deposit the start gives us.
“Well done. You did what you said you did. You gave it a go. The outcome matters far less than that.”
The truth is none of us know how we’ll finish, so why put so much emphasis on that? Even if we have the fastest muscle fibres in our legs, we could pull a hamstring, have an upset tummy, or simply not desire it enough and not finish strong.
We can’t control the outcome, but we can steer the direction of it by moving when the gun is fired in the direction we want to go, by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and determining as we go whether it’s time to speed up, slow down or move in a new direction.
Without the start we get nothing.
It’s why I start over and over again. I spend almost every day at my keyboard running my business with the thoughts, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I start anyway and then I go within to trust myself to figure it out and giving my confidence a chance to grow.
When my babies were handed to me after their first breath, I wanted to say to the midwife “excuse me. Why are you giving me this child? I have no idea what I’m doing.”
I still have no idea, but each day I start with intention and love and I figure it out. Sometimes I fall badly, other times I win, but I celebrate the start instead. It’s how you can maintain your self-worth and grow your strength without receiving a medal or achieving the results you expected.
I’ve just spent the past day submitting proposals to our dream clients. I had no idea what I was doing and was bombarded with the thoughts, “You are such an idiot. Your pitch doesn’t even fit their required forms! There’s no way they’re going to listen. They are going to laugh at you. “
So what if they do? I pushed those thoughts aside and instead focused on the start. I felt excitement about what I was about to learn and achieve. I conquered the demons to show up and have a go. There’s a high possibility I may get ignored, but I started and if you focus on the right things, you’ll gain so much self-confidence just from your giving it a go and growing a little bit more.
The Start. It’s where the power lies.
Stop looking at the finishing line and thinking it lies there with the number on that ribbon that gets pinned to your chest. If you’re a parent, encourage your children to focus on the start. The getting up and moving even when everything tells you not to because you might fail or look foolish.
Run with those debilitating emotions and show them that no matter how much they want to linger around and for how long, you’ve still got a spirit that’s stronger and wiser and more determined to move forward to that which you want.