Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

Try, Try Again

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 10, Issue 2

February 2014

I am not someone who normally watches sporting events on television, but when it comes to the Olympic games, I become a fan. I marvel at the physical prowess of athletes who attempt impossible feats of strength, endurance, and skill. I experience absolute terror as I watch them fly down mountainsides at breakneck speeds, jumping on rails, skiing backwards, doing somersaults 20 feet in the air and landing on two feet! I ooh and aah at the beauty and artistry of ice-dancers with their salchow jumps and chocktaw turns. I sit in awe of the strength, agility and synchronicity of speed skaters. And I appreciate and admire the precision and coordination that players display in team sports.

But what astounds me even more than the physical ability is the emotional strength of these athletes: the years of training with the single-minded focus, dedication and determination to work at what they love, the willingness to sacrifice large parts of their lives to develop their sport, perform in front of millions of people and endure the pressure of entire nations of fans weighing upon them.

How does that develop? How do they overcome the mistakes and missteps that inevitably happen? When they fall down, how do they just dust themselves off and get back to their program with a smile on their face? Whether bruised, battered or humiliated, how do so many of these athletes display such grace under fire?

At the risk of oversimplifying a much larger topic, and acknowledging that many athletes may suffer from as many mental health issues as the rest of the population (as has been so eloquently expressed and championed in the Let’s Talk campaign by Olympian speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes), I think there are lessons that we can take from them.

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000-hour rule, which suggests that if we practice any skill for 10,000 hours, we can become an expert in that area. Many of our athletes have large teams of coaches that support not only their physical development but their emotional being as well. So much of this emotional strength and maturity may have been learned through lots of practice. Most of us do not have the natural talent to become Olympians, but we may have a love and passion for doing something that we may not give ourselves enough time to develop and hone our skill in. When we fall down, we may not choose to pick ourselves up and try again. We may find it easier to quit than to deal with the pain or embarrassment of our failure.

But if we approach new learning with the knowledge that inevitably we are going to fall and fail, if we learn to pick ourselves up over and over again, would we eventually learn the same lesson as these athletes? It’s simply this, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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