I have always strived to be the best that I can be in what I do, whether I am swimming, studying, or speaking. To be one's best, you have to be true to yourself, honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledge that YOUR best may not necessarily mean coming first, getting that job, or gaining respect from others. Being your best is quite literally being your best, for you and you alone. But how do you know you are being the best you can be?
When I was a swimmer I used to always race against my own time in training - you know? I would race the clock, always keeping an eye on the big round thing on the wall with it's long black and red arm winding endlessly round and round. Each training set would be a challenge, as I plowed up and down the pool I would develop a mantra in my head, "left, right, left, right, kick, swim fast, left, right, left, right, kick, swim faster." But . . . and this is a big BUT!!! This alone could never get me at my best. You see, I had the motivation to race the clock, but when it came to being in a race, or training in a huge group, I could never rely on just the clock to help me be the best that I could be in that moment . . . . da, da, dummmmmm - this is where a little healthy competition comes into the equation.
Competition can be healthy - it's the attitude you take into the competition that can make it a good thing or turn it toxic. So how do you use competition in a healthy way?
1. Assessment: Competition allows you to assess your progress against that of others further ahead on the road of sport/business/school. It enables you to clearly see your strengths and weaknesses and gives you the opportunity to see what you can be doing different, i.e., what are others doing that is working better and how can you utilise this new information/technique/approach?
2. Challenge: Competition provides you with external challenges that are more about improving you own performance as opposed to "beating other people." When someone else sets a standard that you wish to achieve, don't get down about it - get UP, get MOVING, use their success to motivate yourself to greater heights.
3. Honesty: Yep, honesty, or rather, being honest with yourself. Competition can be healthy in the sense that it demands you to be honest with your own abilities and talents. For example, I am never going to be a great singer . . . I could go on X-factor, deluded that I will do well, but I know, when I sing against people that are truly talented, I am going to sound like a duck quacking under water (or something like that). Singing is not a talent of mine or an ability and hearing myself next to, say, Adele, proves this. So, am I going to be a singer? Nope; I have other talents and abilities that I know I am good at and I am going to focus on those.
4. Drive: I had drive in the pool and at university - drive fueled by my desire to be my best, supported by my body and mind, and working with (or "driving through traffic of") other people. In the pool it was the other competitors who were also exhibiting drive, at uni it was my fellow scholars who were exhibiting drive, and we were all "driving" each other to be better, faster, more knowledgeable - whether thrashing it out in water, or endless edits of essays. Drive is an internal passion made manifest . . . but without others to "drive" with, it will wilt, fade, and eventually cease to exist.
Competition can be healthy; make it healthy, sustain it in a positive, clear, and directional light and you will find that it is a magnificent aid to being YOUR best. Just be aware of any negative habits that can creep into the competitive frame of mind, i.e., comparison, jealousy, etc. AND remember, you can only be as good as you can be, no-one can ask any more of you, but don't be complacent about what your best is. Be YOU in the grand scheme of things, but use the interconnection that we all have access to and embrace the competition that challenges and drives you, without forgetting to assess and be honest with the real you.
In schools recently I have had this question a lot - "If you could choose to be "normal" would you?" (or other variants on this idea). My reply is always this - "Nope, I would not choose to have two arms and two legs, even if I did have that choice."
You see, I like myself, I like who I am, where I am coming from, I like living in this world with a disability, and I like the opportunities that have risen my way because of my disability. I am the person I am now because of my disability and I would not like to change me (much . . . we always have space for growth and self improvement, as long as we continue to be true to our selves).
When I was a teenager I had a breakthrough moment, I realised that I was more concerned with my "jiggly-bits" then I was with my missing limbs. What made me look so different to others actually didn't make me different at all, in fact I was behaving just like any other teenager, moody, argumentative, eager, and wide-eyed. I was a teenage girl first, and then a disabled person. AND even though I still worry about my "jiggly-bits" now, I can see the farce that is the circumstance of worrying about "jiggly-bits." My disability has given me a body and self perspective that many able-bods miss out on = I am perfectly myself just the way I am, missing limbs, "jiggly-bits," and all.
When I do visit schools, I see lot's of students that are trying to "fit" in, that are trying to alter their appearance in the hopes of being "aesthetically" accepted. I hope, that when I visit, when I talk, when I answer questions, they can see that even when you look different you can be successful, confident, and most importantly, HAPPY! In fact, I hope that I am proof that being different defines these concepts of success, confidence, and happiness = if we were all the same, LIFE would be dull, contemptuous, and sad. Diversity should be celebrated in schools, as should an emphasis on being your best. But what does being your best mean?
Stay tuned tomorrow when I discuss this questions.
p.s. this blog post is about a week late. I am sure you will excuse though as my Auntie passed away last wednesday. She was my birthday twin, my "other mother," my inspiration, and one of my biggest supporters. It's been tough, but I know she wouldn't want us all to stop our lives, to stop moving forward. But please, send your thoughts to my family and hold us all in your prayers/best wishes.
Hello!! It's been awhile, or rather a few weeks, but work has taken me from home a lot the past two weeks and I really haven't had the time to sit down with a cuppa and a blogging idea. How are you? I hope your well, I am.
So, where have I been . . .
Belfast! I was fortunate to receive a great opportunity to speak at the HMC Conference 2012. It was a hugely interesting trip and I met some great people (and contacts for schools). I was on a panel talking about the Olympic/Paralympic Legacy in education . . .
Now, unlike my fellow panelists - Lord Moynihan and journalist Jim White - I don't claim to be an expert on independent/state schools and how sports is promoted in either . . . I do, however, know what it is like to be a Paralympic athlete AND a Paralympic athlete that regularly talks in schools. On this panel I did my talk "old school;" I gave them all a "taster" of my story and some examples of the impact that a Paralympian's story can have on students.
Did I get rave review or what!!! It was a raging success in my book! (P.S. I was there to inspire, but, as usual, I got inspired myself - I learnt, absorbed, debated, and generally could feel my little brain soak up new information!! When a new opportunity presents itself remember to see, hear, and learn as much as you can from it!)
Where else have I been?
I have been to Manchester to visit three schools over the course of a week. Each school that I go to always blows me away with the students questions, respect, care, and curiosity - these three Manchester schools were no exception. I have already rebooked one of the schools for next year and am looking forward to visiting the others again soon.
Now, please keep an eye out on this blog, as I have some, kinda, crazy, amazing posts coming up!! Especially tomorrow (hint hint). I have had some fantastic blog ideas coming to me of late (and when I say late, I MEAN late, i.e., 2am this morning I had such a great idea I had to power up the laptop in bed and type like a crazy lady!!), and I really want to share with you all my thoughts on positivity, self belief, and life in general.