I have met many people who struggle to adapt when a challenge comes their way. They are typically amazing planners, very detail oriented, and have every step of their life planned. However, they often struggle when life happens, a new obstacle is added, or something outside of their control stops their plan from happening the way they envision it. Rather than seeing a detour and the new possibilities it can bring, they see a road block and become mentally and emotionally paralysed.
I started this blog with the intent of talking about performance and social identity, especially as it relates to Tourette’s Syndrome. Instead I have found myself bouncing around from mental illness to youth sport and from suicide to hope. Last week I questioned my intent and asked myself some questions about what it is I want to achieve here, as recently I have found that a lot has been about hope. I started to think about this as typically I start out each article thinking about the direction my writing will go and often find myself veering off as my thoughts take a new direction. Now, after some reflection, finally I think I have the answer. No matter what happens in life, hopelessness will destroy it. While this is true across humanity, the most instantly observable environment is sport.
There are two aspects to hope that I am going to talk about in this article and both will demonstrate just how important hope is in any endeavour, including survival. Maybe even especially survival. One aspect is self-reliance, and the other is being reliant on others. Both are equally important in hope. First though, we have to get through a little bit of dark research from the 1950s.
If willpower were so easy as “Today I will start/stop *insert goal here*” we’d all be a blazing and unstoppable success in all we tried to achieve. Ideal weight? Easy, all you have to do is willpower it. Want to run 10 miles? Yeah, willpower it, no problem (that said, watch this space for the rat article). What’s that, you want to be the best in your field (whatever that may be)? You can willpower it into existence, easy peasy lemon squeezy. Nope – I’m calling shenanigans! Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult, as Toby Wright would say.
And there you are, January 15th, half way through a pack of cigarettes you bought last night and feeling down on yourself. But, but… the mountain – and the little train. I thought I could. And suddenly your whole identity as a mentally strong, focused and goal-oriented individual dissipates into the air, and instead of exercising you get out the ice cream and prepare for a Netflix binge session. I think I can make it though six hours of Netflix and a tub of ice cream before bedtime. Yeah, I am 100% certain of this. And I’m right – hit that one right out of the park and didn’t even have a SMART goal.
Create your own goals and take steps to achieve them. Don’t compare your success to the success (perceived or otherwise) of others. Compare your success to the goals you want to achieve for yourself, and I guarantee that while you are taking steps to meet your goals you will feel better about yourself.
Seeing stars does make people dream. I am not sure if it’s the idea of points of hope in the darkness, or the comfort of knowing that in an infinite universe the problems we face are really not as big as they seem. We get to look directly at the handiwork of an infinite God and feel small and a part of infinity all at once. We get to see things seen by billions of people over the centuries and be a part of history. At the same time, we get to see it in a totally unique way, just like Van Gogh did.
The reality of humanity is that unless something occurs to change us, we will continue to do what we have always done and find our level. If we have always lived in poverty, sudden riches will not change the poverty mindset and we will soon find ourselves back there. Poor diet and exercise choices? A new body won’t fix that. You may have the appearance of having made better decisions for a limited time, but before long you’ll be back where you were.
The problem isn’t that “you can’t teach ambition”, the problem is that too many people who see themselves as ambitious don’t realise that not everyone has the same life goals and ambitions. Just because someone doesn’t have blood pressure of 220/110 and show their commitment by losing sleep and living with chest pains, it doesn’t make them less ambitious. It just means their ambitions are different to others who are trying to get ahead in the rat race.