The problem is that I will never really know.
This year the pool opened over Memorial Day Weekend. It was a bit cold and rainy and so I wasn’t able to swim on my designated start date. But, by May 30th I was ready to take the annual walk of shame – from the locker room to the pool edge. It’s a shame because I actually accomplish about 80% of my resolutions each year, but never quite get to the physical state I desire.
So, as I’ve started my summer lap swimming, my mind remembers a time long ago when I missed my chance to succeed in doing something with my swimming skills.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I can’t do the butterfly. I never had to learn it and so I didn’t. But, in 7th grade swim class I was the person who always had to demonstrate the stroke for the rest of the class. It was a bit traumatic for a shy girl, but did give me a sense of accomplishment.
In the 8th grade I had a friend try out for the swim team and make it. I delayed trying out until the last day. Apparently there was only one other person who had delayed as well – a boy named Scott. He wasn’t a particular “cool” guy and so I thought I would beat him. Realize, my 8th grade brain was at work, not taking in the obvious clue that he was over 6 feet tall in the 8th grade and …had feet that could self-propel him into infinity.
So, the coach told us to get into the water and she blew the start whistle. We were off and running, er swimming.
After a few laps I realized that Scott was ahead of me. How could this be? I am (was) a pretty fast swimmer. How could “un-cool” Scott be ahead of me?
At the end of the race, I couldn’t even hear my time and can’t even remember if I made the team. I was so deflated that I had lost to Scott of all people.
So, much to the dismay of my friend, and I’m sure the coach, I didn’t join the team.
Well, later that year I was surprised to find out that Scott won all kinds of STATE championships in swimming. Yes, not school championships, but state. The person I had been comparing myself to was the best of the best. What if I had known that when I was racing him? I might have been proud of my attempt to compete against him and perhaps would have continued to improve my game.
Or, would I?
It is easy to make comparing a way of life. There will always be those that are far worse and far better than us in any given area. We all know this, but how we use this knowledge creates drastically different results.
I can write this blogspost because I’ve chosen the right way to respond and ….the wrong approach.
Here are a few tips that may be helpful to keep in mind when you are tempted to compare yourself too much to the “Olympic champions” around us:
- Change YOUR surroundings – It’s time to take a break from whatever is diverting you. Is it comparing yourself to neighbors? Take a little roadtrip to some small towns or just a different city. Noticing all the great accomplishments of people on Facebook? Log off the system for a few days.
- Serve Others – Admit it, you get self-doubt and a tinge of depression when you spend too much time comparing your life, business, successes, and failures to others. Turn it around. Serve, serve, serve. Write a thank you note to a friend or customer. Offer to do and errand or task for someone. Volunteer. This gets you out there realizing you’ve got something to offer. Plus, it might give you that big idea you’ve been looking for and can’t seem to find since you are so busy comparing!
- Personal Affirmations – No, this isn’t a joke. Sometimes you need to make a list of things that you do well or would like to do well. Perhaps repeat them during your morning exercise or while you are driving to work or business. Our brains take action on what we tell them. Our brain doesn’t know if what we are telling them is positive or negative. Why not express daily what we do well.
- Turn to your inspirational sources – This may be scripture, coaches, favorite authors, etc. There’s always something embedded in these resources that help us press on, remind us that we are unique and just need to focus on improving ourselves.
- Focus – Select just 1-2 areas to work on at a time. I’m BAD at this area. I love creating dozens of projects, goals, and ….expectations for myself. I need to stop it! When we do this, it is as if we are taking the best we see in dozens of people and trying to become the best at all those things even though they aren’t even all that! Better to select 1-2 areas to go focus on learning, growing and creating in than trying to scratch the surface of everything.
I just got back from my swim. I swam slower than usual, but it was a beautiful day and the next few days are going to be rainy. I just wanted to be out in the sunshine and fresh air. I beat an older woman without trying (really?), but quickly reminded myself that it didn’t matter and ….I slowed down and worried about improving my stroke instead of how the pool crowd perceived my progress.
Perhaps my daily efforts will avail me a spot on some kind of mid-life Olympic wanna be swim team someday. So be it. I’m fine with it. I’m doing what I can with what I have right now at this point….and there is progress!
But, every once in a while I kick myself for not taking this step in the 8th grade. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, right?