Coming soon – The Summer Olympics Games! Having something to look forward to always helps in maintaining our happiness.
Watching the Olympics reminds me of the greatness we are all capable of achieving. Not necessarily in sports, but in playing your game in life. You know, the thing you are good at and that you spend most of your time doing. That thing that you do for the world to make it a better place.
Anyway, there are always a few truly amazing and memorable moments at every Olympics. One in particular has stuck with me. It occurred at the 1996 summer Olympic games during the women’s team gymnastics competition.
Team USA was narrowly leading Russia going into their final event, the vault. The next to last American gymnast to perform fell during both of her vaults, putting enormous pressure on 19-year-old Karri Strug to secure the gold medal.
Imagine being in that position. You have worked your whole life for this one moment to arrive. Now with tens of millions of people watching, you finally get your chance to fulfill your lifelong dream of being a gold medal winner. And not just for yourself, but for your team and the entire nation.
To add to the drama, Kerri fell on her first vault attempt and injured her left ankle. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had torn two ligaments. Thankfully she had one more chance. She limped all the way back to the start of the runway, prepared for her final vault, and heard her coach, Bela Karolyi shouting: “Kerri, you can do it! You can do it! You can do it!”
With a tear rolling down her cheek Kerri ran, flipped and twisted, and executed a nearly-perfect landing on both feet. She then immediately lifted the left foot and hopped on the right as she took her post-routine bows. Then she fell to her knees in pain. She had done it, she sealed the win and gold medal for team USA! It gives me the happy shivers and makes me smile every time I watch it. You can view the minute-long version here.
When asked about her coach’s words of encouragement Karri said, “I think it’s kind of strange that being the best gymnastics coach in the world, that’s all he came up with. But in a competition, when he’s really excited and being positive… you’re like, yeah, you’re right, I can do this, and I will do this.” She did do it!
I think of one word when I look back on that moment, Courage. And when I need a little en-courage-ment to do something I know I can and should do, I think of the simple phrase that worked for Karri: “You Can Do It!” I actually hear it in the voice and unique accent of Coach Bela Karolyi. Here’s a 7 second version of that if you’re interested.
If you think about it, it takes courage to do everything in life that is worthwhile. Figuring out what you are good at and pursuing it to the absolute best of your ability. Finding the love of your life and committing to that one person for the rest of your life. Being a parent most definitely takes courage.
Earlier in this series we talked about the 7 heavenly virtues (Charity, Kindness, Patience, Chastity, Temperance, Diligence, and Humility) that we can use to battle the 7 deadly sins in order to live our best and happiest life. I think we need to add Courage to the virtue list.
C.S. Lewis said that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” I think that means we need courage to have any chance at consistently living out the seven heavenly virtues.
It also takes courage to overcome our doubts and fears. We must acknowledge those doubts and fears, face them head-on, and take action to push through them. Courage requires thoughtful action, to do something, or maybe even to not do something you would like to do in reaction to a situation. Yeah, it gets complicated sometimes.
So how do we build our courage? First, recognize you are already a courageous person, just like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard told him that he was a “victim of disorganized thinking,” reminded him of all the courageous things he had done on their journey, and gave him a ‘Courage” medal. Instantly the lion felt courageous.
We can do the same. So much of our fear is a result of our own disorganized thinking. We think about fear of failure instead of the opportunity for success. We talk ourselves out of doing things we know we should do. We care too much about what others think and too little about what we could do for others.
Courage is an inside job. It requires us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, to face our fears, to make tough decisions, and to take action. Others can encourage us, but no one can help us move from fear to courage except ourselves.
I ask myself these questions when faced with a doubt or fear:
I usually discover that the worst is not as bad as the best is good, and that my ability to make the best happen is more likely than the worst occurring. I use the motivation of the best to overcome the fear of the worst. Try it.
Here’s your challenge for the week. Identify one of your fears. Pick something small in the scheme of life. I chose dancing. I realized after writing about taking a leap of faith last week that the first step in taking that leap is courage.
That became obvious when the moment of truth arrived and I tried to back out of dancing with Melanie on our 40th wedding anniversary last weekend. Thankfully she en-courage-d me, or maybe more accurately shamed me into it. I’ll post the video in the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group later today.
Anyway, first visualize yourself facing your fear and successfully overcoming it. See it in detail and see it often. Then when you actually face that fear, you will already know you can overcome it.
Relax, close your eyes, imagine a situation, be courageous, and win. Your imagination is a powerful tool. It doesn’t cost a thing and is always available for your use. You can use it to cause fear and failure, or courage and success, your choice.
Now take action. The best way to become a courageous person is to act like a courageous person. You have already conquered your fear in your mind, now make it happen live. Nothing changes until we face the thing we fear. Don’t wait; act now.
You must get outside of your comfort zone and take action. It is the only way, there is no shortcut, sorry. But great news, overcoming a fear results in instant happiness and confidence that you can do the same with all your other doubts and fears.
Here’s a last little tip to feeling more courageous. Try this. Slouch, frown, and take fast short breaths for a while. How do you feel? Now stand up tall, smile, and take slow deep breaths. Now how do you feel? I bet you feel more relaxed, confident, and courageous doing the latter. You can do this anytime to be that brave person you know you are.
You Can Do It! Scott