Once again, the Olympics is upon us. More than anything else the Olympics has the power to inspire. The medal success, the patriotism, the desire to be the best in the world, the fun and exuberance of the opening and closing ceremonies – it all makes us want to be a part of it.
But hold on. The Olympics is something extraordinary; you do have to be a bit special to be an Olympian. It’s not something that we can all have a go at. Of course, we should never hold back from trying to achieve such ambitions but we need to be realistic. Very few of us will actually go on to make the Olympic grade.
To be an Olympian you have to be your nation’s best; to be an Olympic medallist you have to be the best in the world. There are only very limited opportunities to achieve this.
That’s why it is important to have a reality check.
Yes, it is right to get involved; yes, it is right to seek to maximise your potential; yes, it is right to want to be the best at what you do but you should also recognise that getting to the top is not always a realistic, achievable possibility.
We are told to aim high. “Don’t limit your ambition.” “If you don’t aim for the top then you will never get there.” The trouble is that if we aim so far beyond our means then we face the prospect of certain failure.
Television talent shows are full of failed hopefuls, all believing that they had what it takes.
Do we recognise our failures as a reality check and move on to other more achievable goals or do we persevere, resisting or ignoring the unacceptable truth. We want it so much that too often we are blinded to reality; too often we are besotted by our dream. Our self-belief distorts, even corrupts, our thinking.
For most of us who struggle to achieve something in life we are destined to a life of disappointment, despair and delusion.
Of course, undoubtedly, we should aspire to be successful and we should be inspired by the successes of others. It’s great to hear tales of triumph and of achievement being snatched from the jaws of defeat and failure. Oh yes, we do love it when an individual overcomes adversity and hardship.
If they can do it then why can’t I. Their success is my hope; their achievement is my dream.
All we need is to work at it and it will happen.
Sadly, that is not the case. There is no guaranteed correlation between hard work and success. There are many other influences, most notably, of course, is having some talent.
We may kid ourselves that we just haven’t had that magical lucky break, that moment when we were in the right place at the right time. Such moments are what dreams are made out of.
But as we get older, as that lucky break fails to materialise, our hopes drift away and we lose ourselves in “What if” thoughts. Too often we can then be overwhelmed by bitterness, frustration, jealousy and injustice. Life just hasn’t been fair to me!
Such depressing thoughts take us on a dismal lonely road that is best avoided. Instead, far better, we should learn to live within our means and manage our expectations.
The key to success, the key to contentment is to dream of being at the top but to aim for something much more realisable. Once we have then achieved that target we can move on to our next goal. It’s classic Stepping-Stones Objective Management, taking small achievable steps to where we want to go.
In so doing, we will feel rewarded by our progress and satisfied by our achievements. For many of us, that will be our personal triumph; that will be something we can take pride in; that will be our gold medal performance.
After all, it’s the taking part that matters, whether or not we actually make it to the Olympics.
© Steve Oxley, 2018