The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

August 2016: Dedication

Posted on Aug 17, 2016

August 2016: Dedication

 “The most essential factor is persistence — the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.”
~  James Whitcomb Riley (American writer, poet, author)

The Olympics. Can’t say I’m a big fan. I watch a bit on TV with my husband here and there. Prefer winter Olympics over summer. Maybe because I live in a country with a long winter. Canadians take great pride in their winter sports and activities.

I’m also not an athletic person. I have never enjoyed, let alone excelled at, sports or physical activity in general. The only reason to move more as an adolescent was vanity: to be thin. Fitness was not a motivator. However, once my husband and brother introduced me to hiking and mountain biking in the Yukon, my interest changed to the pleasure of the activity, communing with nature, pushing physical proficiency, and sharing the experience with others. Of course, I was usually a bit behind the others which either spurred me on or frustrated me to tears.

As a child, I was the last one picked for teams. I was very un-co-ordinated, crossed the finish line dragging after the others, and struggled with performance. Teachers got frustrated with my tears and reluctance to participate. I hated running or any form of physical exertion. I was jealous of the classmate who had asthma and didn’t have to participate as fully in Phys. Ed. Now looking back, with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis, there were early signs of the illness—but I internalized my lack of physical prowess as being something wrong with me.

Internalized messages. They can haunt us all our lives and/or drive us to excel, perform, achieve. Olympians are obviously driven people. They are dedicated to their sport or activity. Synonyms or related words to dedication include: committment, application, diligence, industry, resolve, enthusiasm, zeal, conscientiousness, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, drive, staying power; hard work, effort—as in “athletic excellence requires dedication.”

And while I may not relate to dedication and its synonyms for athletic reasons, I can be inspired by the Olympic athletes for what it takes to live with mental illness. Committment, application, diligence, resolve, conscientiousness, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, and all the rest are necessary just to survive some days—even to get out of bed. Anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, and the whole host of mental illness manifestations can suck the life right out of a person.

In order to survive and thrive, a person performs mental gymnastics on a regular basis to counter the internalized messages, the damaging thought patterns, the overwhelming emotions. And like athletes in training, mental gymnastics takes repetition, practice, and tenacity. Failure, setbacks, and discouragement will happen. But we learn to keep going, keep trying. Success in life demands it. Not success in the conventional meaning (money and power), but to live life fully engaged.

We can do this. Press on my fellow mental gymnasts!

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
~Kenneth H. Blanchard (leadership expert & author)

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