The 2012 Olympics come to an end tomorrow and what an amazing two weeks it has been.
Around the world, millions of us have been glued to our TV set as we have watched legions of superbly trained, highly disciplined and incredibly skilled athletes give their all in pursuit of their dreams of taking home a coveted gold, silver or bronze medal.
With the sad exception of a few pathetic badminton players these athletes have gone out day after day and given 100% of themselves in their personal pursuit of excellence.
And we have marveled at their levels of strength, fitness, skill, focus, and perfection.
And as we watch these amazingly talented people perform with what appears to be effortless skill we forget that what we are watching is the result.
Yes, the result of years and years and years of focused, disciplined training and commitment that has culminated in each of them being selected as the best in their fields to represent their countries at this prestigious gathering of the best of the best.
None of them made a decision a few months ago, to compete in these games, made a half-hearted attempt to train, decided it was too hard, and made the team anyway.
Not a single one of them.
What we are watching has taken most of them years to achieve. To reach the pinnacle of greatness in their sports these folks have taken the business of working towards achieving their goals very, very seriously indeed.
They were not born the great athletes they have become. Perhaps some, perhaps all were gifted with raw talent in a particular field but that talent had to be developed and nurtured, smoothed and polished millimeter by millimeter in order to deliver the world class performances we have been honored with witnessing over these past few weeks.
Most of us are not dissimilar from these athletes in that we too have goals, dreams and aspirations of achieving great results in our lives.
And yet as I watched a number of these events I asked myself why it is that most of us do not pursue our goals and our dreams with the same vigor and determination that these athletes pursue theirs?
Why do we not take our own dreams as seriously?
Why do so many of us make only sporadic, half-hearted attempts to achieve what we want and yet somehow seem surprised and disappointed in the sparse results our feeble efforts produce.
Why are we not in training day after day after day in pursuit of our goals?
What separates our results from theirs?
These athletes take their training very seriously because they know, each of them, that any hope they may have of achieving their dreams and returning home with an Olympic medal is dependent on an absolute, full time, disciplined commitment to a training regimen that may include hours of bone weary training that will push them far beyond physical exhaustion.
Why indeed do we not do the same thing? Why do we proclaim to have goals and then set out to achieve them by playing, by pretending that we are seriously in pursuit of them?
Why, when we are trying to lose weight, do we play at it by rationalizing that it is okay to “just have a tiny, little piece” or convincing ourselves that we have been so good for three days that we “deserve” that ice-cream?
Why do we delude ourselves by saying that it’s okay to skip the gym today because we will work out doubly hard tomorrow?
What do you think would happen if we became serious about our training, if we adopted the same discipline, the same commitment to reaching our goals as these athletes do?
And why don’t we?
I think I know the answer.
I know an Olympian, a swimmer who represented our country some 16 years ago in the Summer Olympics.
Some time ago we talked about what his life was like when he was in training.
He talked about the commitment to his goal.
He talked about getting up at 4:15 and being in a freezing pool at 5am.
He talked about spending hours every day training in the pool or the gym.
He talked about only eating certain types of food at certain times.
He talked about pain being his constant companion.
He talked about working through injuries and ignoring fatigue.
And so I asked the obvious question. Why put yourself through all of this?
And his answer was obvious.
He said that daily pain was nothing when he thought of what it would be like to be selected to the Canadian Olympic team.
He told me that when he was so exhausted that he had nothing left to give he would focus on how it would feel to be standing on the podium with an Olympic medal around his neck, and he would instantly find the energy to keep pushing.
My friend did not win a medal but he did return home with something far more valuable.
He returned home with the knowledge that the pursuit of any dream is possible if we are willing to pay the price necessary for its achievement.
And there is always a price to pay.
In fact, there are always two prices to pay.
The price of doing something.
The price of doing nothing.
Doing something will never guarantee the inevitability of success.
Doing nothing will always guarantee the impossibility of success.
So if you are serious about achieving your goals; if the idea of not achieving them is too painful to even contemplate, then you need to become very serious about your training.
You need to interpret the pain of pursuing your goal as simply the payment of a very small price.
And you need to feel the joy you will feel when your reach your goal.
Oh, one more thing.
And you need to start right now.
There’s only four years left until the 2016 Olympics.
Till we read again.
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