The winter olympics are about a month away! I really look forward to watching these amazing, dedicated athletes compete and marvel at the amount of time and practice they have put in to becoming an Olympian. Recently, I read an article called The Sports Gene, which talked about certain body types that are designed to perform specific athletic endeavors. (Think shot putter vs. gymnast). He described how in the early twentieth century it was believed that there was a perfect athletic body that could excel at any sport, whereas now we understand that there are highly specialized bodies that ‘fit’ specific athletic niches. These olympic athletes have taken advantage of their natural physical traits and gifts and aligned their efforts in order to excel in extraordinary ways.
How often do we do this in our own lives? I’m not talking about just sports performance of course, but rather how we open our eyes to our natural abilities and focus our attention on developing (and celebrating) those. There is a regular tendency to be blind to that which we are good at and instead focus on our ‘deficits’. The story that often accompanies this is that we should be able to do something we see others do (fix a computer, have flawless skin, do the crow pose in yoga,….). Does that make any sense though? We acknowledge that people who have more of one type of muscle fiber or the other are better at sprints vs. marathons. We know that our brains are uniquely wired for each of us, allowing some people to be great at art and others to excel in physics (a subject where I personally have accepted that I have some missing synapses). Why then do we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard of being ‘excellent’ at most everything?
What would happen instead if we spent some time considering what our body and mind have been designed to do and aligned our efforts toward developing that? Yesterday I heard an interview with Temple Grandin. She is a professor at Colorado Statue University and an autistic activist. She was diagnosed with autism as a child and had the good fortune of having a mother who helped her focus on those things she was good at and enjoyed. She was obsessed with animals, especially cattle, and ultimately designed cattle buildings that are now used around the world. Her main message however was that “the world needs all kinds of minds”. (We can extend that to “the world needs all kinds of bodies” and probably get rid of the vast majority of eating disorders). Imagine if we were all alike and good at the same things? Not only would that be boring, but we would probably be extinct!
When we emotionally beat ourselves up for not being able to do something, we are not only wasting precious time and energy, we are preventing ourselves from doing something only we can do – bringing our own specific, special talents into the world. We all need you to embrace what those are and focus on using them in ways that make you come alive – because what the world needs is people who have come alive!