Have you been watching the Olympics? Are you impressed with the skill, style, determination, stamina, endurance, grace, and aesthetics of the athletes doing what they do best? If you’re like millions of people across the world during these weeks, you are.
Seeing various Olympic events gets me thinking about how these athletes are in many ways nothing like you and me, because they are extraordinary. The number of people in the whole world who can do what they do – and do it that well – are few. It’s fun to see how “super-human” mere humans can be.
Yet, are they that different from us? Not to take away anything from their unique skills and abilities, which they earned over years of training and sacrifice, but in a way, we can all learn to lead “Olympic” lives. What do I mean by this?
The Olympics are important to us, as viewers, because they represent many positive qualities about the world we live in: peoples from so many different countries, gathering in peace and competing in fair competitions with an elaborate set of agreed-upon rules. They represent what happens when everything (well, almost everything) goes right with the human body. The games show us what we are capable of – in theory – by being human. And part of the competition is to be judged on the demonstration of those efforts, earning the Gold (the ultimate), Silver (excellent), or the Bronze (great), and even just to see participants (even non-medal-winners), who qualified enough to compete (still admirable, even extraordinary).
If we use the Olympic games as a metaphor for Life, how are you doing? Your chosen “sport” is really your chosen life – domestically/personally, and professionally. How are you doing? Gold? Silver? Bronze? Participating? Or are you even qualifiying for your chosen “event”?
In life, we don’t have Olympic judges scoring us. But we do have ourselves judging us, by our own subjective evaluation of how life is going. What does it take to win the Gold? I think therapy is a lot like the coaches the Olympic athletes have. Sure, the athletes, at the end of the day, are the ones doing the actual performance (kind of like a therapy client), but they probably wouldn’t perform as well without their coach to evoke, inspire, guide, refine, troubleshoot, and discover the performance within them. The athletes achieve more with a good coach than they could achieve without one. It’s hard to “win gold” all the time in life, but there are moments when we do, and we savor the feelings associated with these moments, and store those feelings in our memory as the “high points” of our lives.
Some people achieve a lot of Gold; we see them all the time: the top-performers at work; the super-parents who seem to do it all; the school colleagues who are beautiful, talented, rich, kind, socially active, and never seem to get tired; the people at the gym who seem to do everything well and look great doing it; the neighbors who seem to just “have it together” and make it all look so easy.
There is also a lot of Silver we see – people who do well, but maybe not everything goes right, all of the time. They’re not perfect, but they don’t have to be. They achieve a lot, just not the most. But they seem to master things more often than not.
When we see Bronze, we’re seeing people with lives who are getting most things right – but maybe certain flaws get in the way of full achievement. The actress who wins awards, but gets in trouble with her alcohol abuse. The politician who does great things for many people, but gets caught in a scandalous lie. The businessperson who builds great wealth – but they did it through some kind of exploitation. They would be great, except for, well, something that prevents greatness.
Then there are people who don’t win medals, but they participate handsomely in life. They don’t stand out, but only a few of us can really stand out at any one time – that’s what “standing out” is. Most of us might fit in this category, and that’s OK. They just do their “sport”, day after day, and enjoy the playing – even if major glory and recognition never find them.
And there are those who don’t even qualify to play the Life Game: criminals, people who don’t even try, people who are too busy interrupting and undermining others’ dreams to ever really achieve their own. We’ve all seen, or known, these types. Losers. Busybodies. Haters. Freeloaders. Exploiters. Douchebags. You don’t want to be “that guy” (or girl).
What’s keeping us down? What kind of “score deductions” are keeping us from “medaling” at Life? Do we need more dedication? More practice? More self-confidence? More skills-training? More ‘luck’ (which is when Preparation meets Opportunity)? Less resistance from others? More support from others? More attention paid to detail? More strength and effort from us? A better track to run on, pool to swim in, or equipment to work on (our environment)? We can’t raise our scores to go for Gold unless we know what the score deductions are for. These are the items that therapy can address, and does, with many, often.
We don’t have to medal at Life. We can just participate – besides, after all the Olympic athletes wear their medals and stand at attention as their national anthem is played, what do they do? In many cases, they go right back out and run on the track, or swim in the pool, or workout on the equipment. They go back to doing what they love. Winning the medal is nice, but getting there is way more than half the fun, before and after. And for all Olympians, eventually, they need to master more than one “game”, if for no other reason than age and physicality change over time.
So if you’re not medaling at Life, maybe you need a different game to choose. Maybe you need to troubleshoot your performance with someone you trust, and consider getting coaching/therapy to get better at it. Life is not a competition, except with yourself. You’re not being judged, except by your own conscience and your own standards of what works for YOU, now.
Maybe, after the torch is extinguished, it’s not whether you win or lose – it’s how you played the game. For most of us, that’s the Gold right there.
(For help with your individual game, call me at 310-726-4357 or email me about your situation at Ken@GayTherapyLA.com).