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Archive for February, 2006

SHOW UP FOR THE RIGHT RACE

The Winter Olympics excite me more every time they happen – for different reasons each time. This year I was fascinated by the courage of all those warmly dressed people, risking a lot in a very public place. It takes an extraordinary person to do that. However, most of us actually have a lot in common with most of them: we aren’t going to be “winners” either – or so it might seem at first glance.

Winners get a lot – awards, rewards, attention, glory, even money. It must feel wonderful to be an identified “winner” of something, but that doesn’t happen to most of us.

If we run a race, most of us lose. But then, most of us don’t race in any formal sense, so we’re not even “in the running” for winning in that way. Mostly we watch. And, at the same time, many people spend a significant amount of time feeling like losers. Obviously, this is NOT good for one’s mental health. Can anything be done about this?

Oh yes. Quite a bit, it turns out.

GET REAL

I will never win a race for the U.S. Senate, or earn an Olympic medal in cycling, but then I don’t really need to, and neither do you. Where our actions really count is in our daily life. THAT’s the race of our life, and that’s where we need to focus our attention.

OK, so what will it take to be a “winner” there? That’s a real challenge, for many people. Let me explain why.

Many people are struggling against rather difficult circumstances – health challenges (physical and mental), financial challenges, resource insufficiencies (housing, transportation, clothing, and even food, at times), and social challenges (difficult or demanding family members, relatives, friends, etc.). This situation would be difficult for anyone. But for many people, it’s even harder.

If someone has grown up in a family which damaged them – due to active emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a family which failed to support them adequately – by not providing the physical, emotional, social, or cognitive supports a child needs to grow up healthy, then the grown child has a real risk of venturing into adult life with serious inherent handicaps. This is the reality for many people.

it’s a lot harder to be a non-winner than it is to be a winner. The race is hard for all, but the winner gets rewarded. What do the non-winners get? I don’t have to tell you. You know.

WHAT WE CAN DO

I have a recommendation: if you cannot win in one kind of race, take up another. I propose to you that to be a winner in life’s “race”, you simply need to figure out how to persist and to feel good, regardless of your circumstance. Achieving that is a real victory. Unlike other goals you might seek, this one is within your reach.

You surely won’t be on the front page of any newspaper in this re-defined race, but were that to happen it’d only be for a day, so who cares? Your goals should be something else altogether.

Life’s real winners don’t play for the adulation of others (which is always fleeting, at best) but for their own satisfaction. They find ways to be rewarded in spite of circumstance, to find glory in little things, to find cause to smile whether it rains or the sun shines. And when tears come, that too is a victory – a victory of pride and self-respect.

Become a lifelong learner: whatever challenge is thrown at you, try to find the lesson in it, to come out of it knowing something you didn’t before, so that you can go forward more prepared for your next challenge. Do that, and you win. The challenges WILL keep coming, you know. And look around you – at the struggles of others. You are not alone.

You may well not be able to change critical aspects of your circumstance. Most of us find out that such change is a limited prospect at best. How you view it all, however – that is very much yours to craft as you will. So, pause, declare victory where you find it – in small things throughout your day – and come home to peace and satisfaction.

Then, when you are ready, go encourage others – this is a gift we can all give each other. We all need someone on the sidelines cheering us on. Right now I’m cheering for you. I just know you can do this thing. You can be your own hero.

~ Tom Cloyd

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