I am a big fan of the Olympics, not just as a sports fan but as an observer of human nature. Olympians come in all shapes, sizes and colours with a multitude of differing athletic talents, but they all tend to share one common characteristic – perseverance.
You can’t be the best you can be without persevering through a lot of challenges. There are physical setbacks, emotional setbacks, distractions and plenty of reasons to give up when you push yourself to excel. Falling victim to any of these factors can sideline ambition and reduce the chance of ever feeling like you’ve done your best.
I have often used the examples of Olympians to remind young students that their own potential, athletic, artistic or academic is not limited by their ability – as much as it is by their willingness to work hard.
The more they push themselves, the further they can go, although there does come a time when inherited limitations might put a stop to even the most determined pursuit of goals. An occasional reality check is important.
As I watched some of the early Olympics while spending time with my elderly mother, I was struck by the same notion that the quality of her life now requires some serious effort on her part.
She, too, is facing physical setbacks, emotional setbacks and plenty of reasons to simply sit in a chair in the corner and give up. It is not unusual, when older people retire, lose a spouse or face a medical crisis, for them to assume that their “time is over” and to resign themselves to fading away into the background.
Yet, others do not do so.
In fact, changes or crises inspire them to live life to its fullest; to drink in the moments they can find for friends, family and new experiences; to take up activities, both physical and mental, that they’ve never done before.
I was sitting with my Mom at lunch when a woman in her mid-90s approached and expressed her condolences for my father’s passing last fall.
Then, with a big, beaming smile, she looked at Mom and said, “Life changes so quickly, my dear, but you just have to keep on living. There’ll be lots of good days ahead if you keep in touch with everyone.”
I think I can honestly say that my Mom has been under a dark cloud for some time, deferring most decision-making to my sister and I and having little drive. But almost immediately after that conversation at lunch, I could see a change in her demeanour. She was more direct with me, more insistent on setting a plan in motion for herself, and more active in her daily routines. She seemed to be getting on with life.
Perseverance is really about doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. It’s as important to the elderly as it is to the young, the Olympians and all the rest of us muddling through life’s trials and tribulations. If you make the most of today, every day, tomorrow takes care of itself!
Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare. firstname.lastname@example.org.