August 19, 2008 by Jen
Questions on my mind this week…
- Sonnet: Petrarchan or Shakespearean?
- Why did people in 16th C England write so much?
- Will I ever finish Brothers Karamazov? and…
- Why do decisions stress me out so badly?
In between studying for the GRE subject test, this week I have been making hard decisions about my job situation. I have learned well – perhaps too well – to look at both sides of an issue and measure the pros and cons. Yet the pessimist in me persists in saying both options have a lot of negatives, rather than a lot of positives. As a result, I fixate on the decision. “Stewing” is an appropriate word. And after I make it, I continue to second-guess.
I’m sure all of us have watched (or heard about) swimmer Michael Phelps make history with his 8 gold medals (100%) at the Beijing Olympics. One big story was the 200-meter butterfly, in which Phelps’ goggles filled with water halfway through, leaving him blind.
Some people would have taken the incident as an excuse to fail. Phelps went on to win the race despite the incident. “From the 150-meter wall to the finish, I couldn’t see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning,” he told reporters.
As I think about it, I take a few lessons from Phelps and other Olympians.
Phelps was competing against himself and the clock as much as against the other swimmers. He would swim his best whether he was five lengths in front or a length behind. Slacking off when he was winning was not a consideration (see the 200-meter freestyle).
‘Winning’ does not always mean being better than the person next to you. ‘Winning’ does not always mean standing on the top of the podium. Just ask Oksana Chusovitina, the 33-year-old gymnast competing for Germany. In a sport dominated by 16 year olds, Chusovitina’s reaction to her silver medal could hardly have been more jubilant.
And sometimes you just have to race blind, knowing that you are going in the right direction and using your best effort, even if you can’t see the wall.