So my last blog I talked about how rad and talented and inspiring the people in my high school graduating class were. This blog I am going to go off of a conversation I had recently with a good buddy who happened to be in the grade younger than me (obviously all the brilliance couldn’t just be shoved into one grade).
Anna and I became good friends when she played pro badminton in Denmark while I was playing soccer there, and we would commiserate on topics that had the general theme of “Canadian’s impressions of life in Denmark.” As a side note, we also regularly take advantage of being one of the handful of people in Vancouver that are able to both understand and speak the great Danish language. An example of the usefulness of this talent was the one time we managed to outsmart a waiter at a Japanese restaurant and their all-you-can-eat policy as she ordered me to hide my sushi in my Miso soup in Danish so we could get more. But I digress.
Not to have her grade out-shadowed in overall accomplishment, Anna was merely a 10 year pro badminton player in Denmark, who managed to squeeze in a masters degree, played in two Olympics and was a rare outspoken athlete about China’s human right’s record during the Beijing Olympics. She subsequently received an invitation to join Right to Play on a mission in Uganda after her final Olympics in 2008. She’s now a badminton coach and a mom of a 1 year old, and continues to be one of my favourite people to bounce the deeper questions of life off of, which I did during a recent trip to her house while I was back in Canada.
The conversation was timely, as I’ve been in my thoughts lately on the fact I care too much about things, and how it sometimes is holding me back from getting what I want. And sometimes just causing me to want to walk away from certain things I care passionately about, entirely.
“But it’s good to throw your whole heart and soul into things” you may say.
I agree, but as positive as I try to be, the world sucks sometimes, and there are a lot of things we don’t have control over, so putting expectations on people and things sometimes only serves to take the control out of our hands and usually turn it into something negative when components of life and the people in it are out of our control.
I think ideally, and to be able to do so is an art form, is the ability to give your all to something, with no expectations, and let go of whatever the result of that is. To put too much meaning into anything hampers the future, and I think most ideal place to focus on in any facet of this life, is the present.
These are a few thoughts that came from my conversation with Anna (and her brilliance is intertwined in this) and the secret to getting what you want.
1. The Irony of Letting Go to Get Somewhere
My roommate a few years back was a rugby player that went on to play for Canada. His story was an ironic one in the sense that he told me about how at one time, playing for Canada was really important to him with his rugby, leading him to play in places like France and New Zealand, always hoping to get an opportunity.
Yet the National Team coach took no notice and he didn’t get any opportunities.
When he was in his mid-20’s he decided to just let go of the dream, and come back to Canada, where he could play for his club in Vancouver and pursue his landscaping business.
Six months later in his own words, “back home and not caring so much about rugby”, he got his first call-up for Canada, which in his words “made him laugh” because he had just let go of the idea that it was going to happen and he felt he was no where near the shape he was when he was overseas. He went on to a successful career for Canada for several years and retired from the national team at a time of his own choosing.
Similarly, Anna’s husband also was a pro badminton player in Denmark, and represented Canada. He was telling me how he has started business school, and is working, and is just training for fun. Yet on this significantly diminished training schedule, he managed to recently win Nationals for badminton, a feat he only managed to accomplish once many years ago.
This focus to succeed feeds from our ego, which is enhanced by the messages of worth and “succeeding” as athletes and people that society force-feeds us. The irony is once we let go of our expectations the result doesn’t become a big deal, we focus on and enjoy the present, and positive things are able to flow from that mindset.
2. Same Situation, Different Perspectives
I’ve spoken before in my blog about the social anxiety that I used to experience on a daily basis when I was about 13-15. One of the turning points for me in this struggle came from the words of a couple of my teammates.
Through this time in my life I dreaded going to soccer, because I felt like an outcast, was insecure, and convinced myself that no one wanted to be friends with me. I didn’t even bother playing high school soccer my freshman year because I had too much anxiety and insecurity to go to the first meeting.
Because of these fears, I didn’t say much at practice.
One day my Dad was late picking me up and I stood waiting for him in the parking lot with a couple of my more outspoken teammates who asked me, “why are you so quiet, its like you think you’re too cool for us.”
I looked at them, from my place of my own very low self-perception, in a mild state of shock. Here I was thinking so negatively about myself and because of this, I was afraid to talk to them. Yet I was finding out that they wanted to get to know me, but could feel that I had a wall up. And here they were telling me that they had taken that wall as me not being interested in getting to know them, when from my end there could be nothing farther from the truth. I couldn’t believe how we were staring at the same situation from such different perspectives.
From that moment on, I started to let my personality out a little bit and within the year they had become two of my best friends.
It’s important to look at our perception of a situation as something that is very fluid and something that we can change at any moment and turn it towards fitting the parameters of whatever we want to be or do. Which leads me to my final point in working towards getting want you want…
3. Choose the Meaning
We can choose what any situation means.
Perhaps remnants from my teenage days, one of the things I need to work on the most, is at times I can be insecure, and tend to take the worst possible meaning out of everything. By doing that I am choosing to take my energy towards something negative instead of transforming it into something positive, and likely upsetting myself more than is necessary.
As people and as athletes, we can be our own worst enemies, yet this is something that is within our control to fix. YOU can choose what people mean. YOU can choose how you let situations define you and how they make you feel. YOU can choose the lens in which to view things. Once we grasp completely that power that we have, truly anything is possible. For me I am a work in progress in this regard.
The most important message that Anna said in our conversation and something she’s said before through her own philosophies on life, is that everything in life, from what we do, from our behaviours to our fears stems from two emotions: Love or fear. Simply said, if it’s not one it’s the other. As only humans can do, we tend to complicate things or look for complex answers, but it really is that simple.
Taking it a step farther, I think love represents being engrossed in, and enjoying something in the present moment, where fear comes from looking ahead at what could or couldn’t happen and letting it paralyze us from getting what we want. If we immerse ourselves in love and just let ourselves flow in the present, by operating from this place of love, that of which we used to hold so tightly is allowed the air to bloom to fruition.
So the secret in getting what you want? It’s that simple.
Choose to operate from a place of love, not fear.
PS. Anna you rule.