Our Olympics Takeaway? Sacrifice


Oh, the poignancy and patriotism of it all.

For weeks we as a country have been caught up in the 2012 Olympic Games in London – the pageantry, the competition, the stories, the stories, the stories. As well we should be on many levels. How great is it to stand in front of your couch while your national anthem is playing? Stirring. Or while some hard-working soul has a medal put around his neck? Wonderful.

But here’s the thing about the stories. The ones that are told and re-told year after year after year, country after country, sport after sport, are the ones that exemplify sacrifice. Of course to make the Olympic Games in one’s sport usually requires what most of us would consider extreme sacrifice, often extending into the family and coaches who support the competing athlete.

We are just dazzled by how much these people sacrifice, not just to qualify once, but in a lot of cases repeatedly in successive Olympics.

And yet, how many of us are so inspired that we implement even a fraction of that sacrifice into our own lives? Here in shortcut America, we can’t even manage to assemble our own Caesar salad, so we buy it in a pre-made kit. God forbid we have to walk down separate aisles for the lettuce, the croutons and the dressing.

Over and over with life coaching clients I find this is the place we have to go. No, not down the crouton aisle, but down the rocky road of what’s going to give. An Olympic athlete has the amazing advantage of knowing exactly when the Games are, what she’s shooting for in terms of a time-bound goal and how realistic her chances are based on her skill level. And there’s measurability. You either make it or you don’t. Then you either medal or you don’t.

We don’t always have the advantage of such clear-cut end-sights in our lives outside of the athletic arena, but most of us know what we want. Why do we assume it can be accomplished with very little sacrifice? Or do we know that it will require some and we don’t want to make that change or commitment?

It’s disappointing how much that gets in the way, from our most minor to our most major goals.

Over the last few weeks, hearing the Olympic “sacrifice” cheer/fascination in one ear, I found it amusing that in my other ear was a commercial I saw repeatedly on other networks for a weight loss supplement called Lipozene. The likable spokeswoman gushes the same thing it says on the product’s website: “What’s even more amazing, is that people were not asked to change their daily lives.” It’s no wonder, then, that it also proudly announces it has sold more than 15 million bottles.

Well, duh. Who needs FDA approval when you’ve got a no-sacrifice magic pill to help you reach a goal? Ask us to sacrifice a few ounces of soda at a movie theater and hear the roar. Never mind that those of us who enjoy normal portions for years have not been able to buy a beverage at the movies that is not super-sized.

With the 2012 Olympic closing ceremonies behind us, could we maybe honor the athletes that gave us so much entertainment and joy by incorporating some sacrifice into our lives? Some people get this. They make decisions to scale back lifestyle to stay home to raise a child or take a gig waiting tables while they pour the rest of their time into their dream. Years ago, seeking to change jobs, I used a week of paid vacation to do a tryout week on a newspaper copy desk in the middle of August. Not exactly as relaxing as a beach chair and a copy of Vogue, but it was a good way of finding out the job wasn’t for me.

So many just seem to settle for mediocre lives because their money and time is funneled into keeping up with some vision of success they’ve had in their minds since childhood. How much easier it is to watch some woman with a squealing pig on a reality TV show and pass judgment on her than to get up off the couch and do something? Why scale back on potato chips and Lucky Charms when there’s a magic pill?

It’s not just that we’re sedentary. It’s that we often lack the vision to see our desires through. But then we see these athletes making good on theirs and we’re enlivened a bit.

Let these Olympians bring us to another level, shall we? What do you want? How badly do you want it? What is it that you admire about these athletes?

They come from all walks of life. They identified a gift. They made a decision and focused. They had the patience to see the baby steps eventually pay off. They stuck with it. They stuck with it some more.

That last part is where we often falter. At this challenging time in our country, we can show our puffed-up patriotism by hurling political offensives at each other. Or we can make an effort to be our best selves, to be better people and therefore better Americans.

That is way, way more poignant.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.