Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Success Can Be as Simple as Staying in the Moment

Four years ago, the Olympics came and went in my life. Nothing to phone home about.
This time, however, it was quite different. It captured me. I listened as the moderators talked about not just the physical, but also the mental and emotional preparation of the athletes. This Olympics, for me, was full of lessons and metaphors and heart.

But one lesson sticks out more than the rest. One of our girls on the gymnastic team did not fair so well. On her first event on the beam, she fell. It was a difficult maneuver and she didn’t quite make it. But other gymnasts had also taken tumbles and come up with medals. Here was her mistake. On the second competition, according to the moderators, she brought her feelings of insecurity from the first experience into the second event and, as a result, tripped over something really simple. On the third event, the moderator said that our athlete had to ‘stay in the moment’ to succeed. If she wanted to stay in the running, she had to drop her experience from the first two events and not carry it into the third. She had to be fully alert and aware. Being distracted by reliving her feelings and memories about the two prior mistakes could only take her away from the moment and contribute to failure.

I thought about the application of ‘staying in the moment.’ I thought about all our school children who carry feelings of insecurity and incompetence forward, into the next lesson, the next semester, the next year, and into adult life. (I thought about how nice it would be if schools actively built on a child’s successes, not his failures). But in the meantime, I wonder what would happen if schools helped each child wipe their slates clean…if they didn’t average a child’s grades together…if they said to them, the problem you had with math happened LAST week. Now, let’s start over.

I wonder what would happen if along with physical education classes, we had mental education classes? What would happen if we learned early on to be conscious of our thoughts and feelings? Maybe then we could truly stay in the moment and succeed at the tasks at hand.

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