I recently caught glimpses of the Winter Olympics, an event that always fills me with awe. Individuals focused and both mentally and physically near the edge of their capability. And we, presented with this international show of personal accomplishment, have the honour of watching from the comfort of our couches.
At any point during these events these men and women could absolutely lose it – not just a medal, but their lives. A fall at speed, a jump gone wrong, a hit, a blade out of place – an instant and so much could be lost.
I was watching a woman’s snowboard ‘cross’ (Four women are racing down the hill at the same time – like snowy roller derby…) One woman had accidentally knocked the others and had taken such a huge lead that it seemed like a cake walk for a gold. As she mounted the last rise, she touched her board with her hands (a showboat kind of move) and went off track, allowing the not so close Swiss second to come first. An assured gold (I believe she already had one medal) was transformed into a silver. There was no fear of lives lost but the announcer mentioned that this move would be played on Olympic bloopers for years to come.
I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time – probably a couch potato’s “Boy, that was a dumb chance to take, and lose”, but I’ve revised my thoughts on it since then. Whether your tendency is to ‘err on the side of caution’, or ‘go big or go home’, here are a few of my own thoughts.
Kudos to someone who had the self-possession to take a chance like that – to want to make a grand exit rather than just a finish. If she had pulled it off (the dangerous ‘if’) that would have been another kind of classic. I would like to congratulate her on her risk taking, and bravada in not focusing on a fear of losing. The outcome to me doesn’t really matter – she gave me an opportunity to reflect on falling and the mind.
Risk off the Rocks
Can freedom and fear live together in our minds? I’m not sure of that. I understand the reason for fear – to warn us that something bad might happen to us physically. However, the mind cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality. Therefore, many of our bogeyman fears are just that – figments of our imaginations. We are not alone in this – the media, systems and families also help in seeding these fears – some more than others in a well-meaning attempt to protect us in some way, to keep us from experiencing harm or hurt, physically, mentally or emotionally. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of love (read, broken heart)… the possibilities are almost endless. However this fear keeps us on the rocks of victimisation, paralysis, pain. We may live a long time, but of what quality? And is our island of safety really that or does it isolate us from the messy, wonderful world of learning and life? My mother works on the philosophy that kids accidentally or intentionally tasting a bit of dirt enhances their immunity over the long run. Do we get stronger with a bit of ‘dirt’ as well? Life can be a risk in itself and often the highest points of excellence are when we take a chance. Think about your past when you didn’t play it “safe”. Whatever the final outcome (‘good’ or ‘bad’) can you recall the brightness, joy, wonder or fullness you felt out there on the edge?
“The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitudes.” – Victor Frankl
Teach your children well
A friend of mine is a great ‘amateur’ hockey player. He’s been playing since he was a young lad and, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty darn good. His five-year old son was taking skating lessons when I travelled through the town where they lived. As I watched the little knee-higher speeding around, I was told a story about his skating learning curve. At one time, he had just stopped improving and his folks were trying to figure out what the problem was. Then they realised that neither mom nor dad fell on the ice – and so falling “wasn’t done” and so was out of the question for the little guy. Only when Dad ‘tripped’ and fell on the ice and got back up again did it make sense for the little boy to push himself to a new limit of falling and beyond. As adults we’re good at what we do and many of us only show our competencies rather than our weakness. Especially with children, it is important for us to make mistakes, so that they know that mistakes (or in the movies, infamous re-takes) are the best way to attempt something new and learn how to better ourselves. They are sometimes the quickest way to excellence. Two quotes from Thomas Edison come to mind – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” and “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” As they say, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just that you must get yourself up one time more – that’s where success and personal power lies.
To err is human…
We all make mistakes – and many of us spend a lot of mental energy covering them up. Our rational, conscious mind is kept busy with ‘reasons’ why we did or didn’t do things. Most of the time, this involves us in a cycle of internal struggle wearing us out and not really leaving us with the lessons that mistakes are made to show us. When we feel guilty about our goofs, we tend to find ways to punish ourselves – stopping us from moving on to live a full and enjoyable life. If you could do it all again, undoubtedly you would have done a number of things differently, so these are all forgivable situations. You’ve punished yourself quite enough already. It is time to celebrate falling… and getting right back up again.
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Have a wonderful month and Happy Birthday Angela and all March ‘babies’.
PS – A special thanks to Lindsey, the snowboarder of the story, for reminding me to fall more often…