When we see Olympic athletes on the podium, we know they worked really hard to get there. But http://www.theessaymag.com/canada/ Steven Bradbury’s story struck me with a sense of awe about his incredible determination and persistence.
Australia’s first team to win a championship in a winter sport. They won the 5,000m relay at the World Championships. In 1992, his team crashed during the semi-finals in the Winter Olympics. In the 1994 Winter Olympics, he was part of the short track team that won bronze. On an individual level, he was knocked over by a rival in a semi-final and limped across the finish line for fourth place and was eliminated. In another race, he was pushed by a competitor (who was disqualified) and fell.
More dramatically, at the 1994 World Cup, his right leg was cut by a competitor’s skate and he lost 4 litres of blood. It took 111 stitches and 18 months before he was back up to full strength. He was considered a strong contender for the Winter Olympics but didn’t place in team and had crashes in his individual events.
Then, in what could have been a career-ender, he fractured 2 vertebrae during a training accident. A month and a half in a halo brace, 4 pins in his skull and screws and plates bolted into his chest. He was told he would never compete again.
And then, in the men’s short track at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, a series of unlikely events created the opportunity for him to be in the finals. Because he had 4 races back to back and he was up against stronger and faster contenders, his strategy was to stay on his feet and stay in the race.
Ironically, in the end, it was an ill-timed accident that opened the path for him to… well, see for yourself.
His perseverance is inspirational. Against all odds, he showed up and was ready for opportunity. And then he did a “Bradbury” – an Australian expression named after him for doing an unusual or unexpected success.
Where will persistence take you? And how will you show up – both at the race and in the unseen training in-between?
As I signed my holiday greeting cards, I usually sign off with “Wishing you all the best for 2013!” It sparked my thoughts about what I really meant by that phrase “all the best”. What am I hoping for my friends and family?
In many ways, as a life coach, they are the same hopes and wishes that I hold for myself and my clients, reflecting the elements in life that I value. Here is the fuller version of what that means to me:
I wish for you a life of fulfillment, living aligned moment by moment with your values.
I wish for you a created life of conscious choices picked from a wide field of options.
I wish for you a community to surround you with love, support and accountability.
I wish for you challenges to grow, stretch and transform you into the person you are becoming.
I wish for you connection to your deepest feelings and moments – the highs and lows and everything in between.
I wish for you a year beyond what you could imagine.
Vancouver is known for many things: – Spectacular scenery (rainforest, desert, mountains, ocean – we have it all!) – Hosting world class events like the 2009 World Police and Fire Games, the 2006 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics – Friendly people – Close proximity to 3 local mountains for after-work ski/snowboarding/mountain biking as well as a quick drive to world famous Whistler Blackcomb ski resort – Having the busiest sea port in Canada – The nickname “Hollywood North” for being 3rd largest film production centre in North America
Last week, Vancouver hit the headlines for another reason: post-Stanley Cup riots. This was the Vancouver I saw from my balcony:
Now there are ongoing debates as to who is at fault, how it could have been prevented, what is the fall out and kids these days… what really caught my ear was hearing people that were involved in looting, setting vehicles on fire, destroying public property and/or taunting police say that their behavior was “out of character” for them.
The curious juxtaposition for me is that Vancouver is home to a vibrant film, television and theater scene. We create great entertainment here and part of why it works is that actors create characters that we believe. There is an acting term called “staying in character”. This means that the actor responds and acts in the way that his or her character would. Instead of seeing an actor going through the motions of a line or action, we, the audience, see the character. When an actor breaks character, or doesn’t act in the way that their character would, the effect on the audience is that they are no longer able to suspend their disbelief and believe in the character.
This brings up some great coaching questions:
– where are you “out of character” or out of integrity?
– what does it feel like when you are “in character” or in your integrity?
– what stands out about your character?
– what would you like to strengthen about your character?
A few years ago, my friend said to me “Everyone is just trying to feel better.” I was really puzzled. While the answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is not 42, as Deep Thought answers in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I figured that it was more complicated than a feeling.
pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: tobe happytoseeaperson.
characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: ahappymood;ahappyframeofmind
favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: ahappy,fruitfulland.
apt or felicitous, as actions, utterances, or ideas.
obsessed by or quick to use the item indicated (usually used in combination): atrigger-happygangster.Everybodyis gadget-happythesedays.
What strikes me about #1-4 is that they are about a temporal state, impacted by the circumstances of the moment. Happy is an adjective. If you reach into the recesses of elementary school lessons on parts of speech, that means that it describes a noun. The noun in this case is a person: you. A happy you. So when are you most happy? When you are being hugged? When you get a raise? When you are singing in the shower?
What about when you aren’t…? What if you could make happy a constant state of being?
The ancient teacher Paul, said, “I have learned to be content regardless of the circumstance…” His circumstances included being jailed, tortured and enduring public scorn – ok, so in a difficult circumstance contest, he wins most people hands down but the lesson is true for both extreme and minor circumstances. When we choose an attitude of joy, regardless of what we face, our whole world looks different and we feel better.
What does it take to learn that secret of choosing to be happy? I believe that the operative word here is ‘choose’. It is not always an easy choice. We must say yes to some things and no to others. Here are some places to start:
– I say yes to choosing work aligned with my values, even if there is a financial impact.
– I say yes to simplifying my schedule to make more time for……..
– I say no to relationships that constantly drain me…
– I say no to overcommitting, even when I feel pressure from other people.
Douglas Adam’s wrote: “He felt that his whole life was some kind of a dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” I believe our hearts continue to know what is right for us and also to dream. What, right now, is the thing that would move you towards having a truly happy 2011?
The fifth definition of happy is “obsessed by or quick to use the item indicated” as in trigger-happy. What would it like to be joy-happy?
Live your dream AND enjoy it. Feel Better. Choose joy.
Although I am allergic to dogs, one of my favorite shows to watch while I knit is The Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan says he rehabilitates dogs and trains people. As a coach, it fascinates me to watch how he works with the dog owners to be present, aware of their own state and create what they want for their home and their pack. One technique that he uses with the dogs kind of startled me – in fact, it bothered me: sometimes when a dog starts acting up, he gives it a little tap or kick. Yeowch. Cesar explained that sometimes the dog’s brain moves into a behavioral rut and the nudge doesn’t hurt them – it just snaps them out of their current state. Kind of like when my computer gets stuck and won’t respond to what I am asking it to do and I have to reboot it. So I got to thinking about how this applies with people…
I remember back in October I was feeling really bogged down on a couple fronts – I was in the tail end of my certification program, parenting was occupying a lot of my emotional energy and we had just renovated and sold a family property so I was struggling to catch up on some business development that had piled up. My partner, Glen Murray, and I had planned to go with our TCM, Dr. Melissa Carr, up to Adams River to see the salmon run for a little daycation. I wasn’t sure whether a day on the road would be relaxing or if it would create more pressure in an already full calendar. Glen is a wise and patient man and assured me that the day would be memorable and well worth the trip. We bundled into the car early that morning (I don’t think I realized how early we had to leave Vancouver when I agreed to go) and set off to see the largest salmon run in 100 years.
I love the feeling of roadtrips (even if this one started too early in the morning) because I get a delicious sense of freedom and discovery… With the open road before me, good tunes and company in the car and, of course, plenty of snacks, the day was mine to make of it as I wished. The backlog of work faded quickly as we put miles between us and home. One of the amazing things that I appreciate about BC is the lush beauty that surrounds us and it reminds me to get outdoors more often. I am always refreshed, although sometimes also rained on, when I do.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the sight of thousands of salmon, fighting against the currents and odds, to return to their nesting spot, find a mate and fulfill their part in the salmon circle of life. Before this trip, I knew very little about salmon except that I liked it with a little teriyaki or fruit salsa rather than candied. Fortunately, the Adams River Salmon Society (sorry, their site is down at the moment) had fantastic educational displays. Of all the eggs that are laid in the spawning grounds, only one in four thousand survive to return four years later to the Adams River. Something like half of all eggs make it through to hatching into little fry, half of the fry survive a year of growth in the lake and then swim out 480 km to sea, and only half make it past predators, fisherfolk, and nature to swim back the 480 km to spawn in the place they were born. Those are not odds in their favor for survival. The last part of their journey is in fresh water, where they cannot feed, and so their bodies begin to feed on themselves, changing shape and color as they stave off starvation. With their last reserves of strength, they struggle against the current to maintain a steady position, staking out territory and building nests to lay their eggs. The second they lose their grip, they are swept away by the river and have to make their way painstakingly back over the same rocks and other fish that are competing for mates and space. And then to top it off, as soon as their eggs are laid and fertilized, they die, their carcasses floating to the banks to become fertilizer to enrich the nearby land. While the last days of their lives seem grim for the salmon, I felt inspiration in their determination.
I found this scene on the rocks nearby the river and thought it was poignant: a male and female salmon having fulfilled their life’s mission, with life spilled out on the rocks. And it made me reflect on my life’s mission… and wonder how committed I am to seeing it through… Do I have the persistence of the salmon? This thoughtful, grounded woman on the bank of the Adams River was not the same as the person that had left Vancouver 5 hours earlier. I was changed by being in a different environment, experiencing something new, engaging with my surroundings and being open to what the day had to offer. So how are the dog whisperer, salmon and my experience connected? Cesar Millan said:
…I have made it my mission to continue spreading this message of balance around the world. If we can do this with one dog, and one human at a time, maybe we can eventually bring that into entire communities and countries, so we can all live as my greatest teachers (dogs) do – mindfully aware, and emotionally in tune.
To me, he is referring to connecting back with ourselves and being intentional with our actions. In our busy lives run by calendars, various phone alerts and overfull inboxes, it is really easy to slip into familiar ways of getting through our day. Our lower brains are really good at learning rote behaviors and we can almost switch off our active brains for things like getting between familiar places or dealing with routine functions. Have you ever arrived home and realized you weren’t really paying attention to how you got there? Or felt like you spent your entire day catching up, constantly behind and running to the next thing on your to do list? What are you missing when your mind and heart are not connected with your body? My daytrip was like that nudge in the side to snap me out of a habitual work-mode and to re-engage with the world around me and within me. I am sure I would not have had the same experience, sitting in my office at my computer, crossing off things that needed to get done. And absolutely, those things were still waiting for me when I returned. But I approached them in a different way – with fresh eyes and energy – after an afternoon at the river’s edge. New experiences shake up patterns and habits. We pay more attention to the details of our surroundings and are better able to hear what our senses are telling us. We stimulate the frontal cortex of our brains where we make decisions, weigh conflicting information, problem solve and direct higher learning and behavior.
We can’t always take a day or longer and get out of Dodge to mix things up so here is a list of some ideas to start with:
take an art class
try an open mike night at the local lounge
try writing with your opposite hand or upside down
visit a botanical gardens near you
spend some time journaling
take a bath (I was told once that to take a proper bath, one must fill the tub, get in and then drain and refill the tub twice and then drain the tub a final time in order to feel completely relaxed)
take a dance class (for me, this was taking a hip hop class. As a dancer, I was shocked at how awkward and out of place I felt. And it was so good for me!)
take a glee club or stand up comedy class that has a performance at the end
And here’s the thing for all you perfectionists out there… if you don’t know what the exact right thing is, do something else until you figure it out =) And while you are at it, send a comment and tell me what you are trying.