Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Your everyday airline attendant will tell you, “Before helping others, first put on your own oxygen mask.”
Many people find it difficult to reconcile these two ideas. Helping yourself and helping others can seem like competing voices. However, when we look deeper, past the simple checkboxes of doing things for me and doing things for you, they are a perfect pair.
Doing things for yourself can be quick fixes or long-term goals. For example, eating breakfast and getting enough sleep are daily tasks that when ignored can have us lacking the energy to give proper care to our children.
On the lengthier end, completing a law degree or training to be an Olympian may seem to be very selfish objectives, but once completed they provide a way to benefit others that didn’t exist before.
Olympic Gold Medalist Sally Gunnell has had a live full of giving and receiving. Early in life she focused on herself, becoming the best runner she could be. She set a world record in the 400-meter hurdles and finished first at the Olympic, World, European, and Commonwealth competitions, the only woman to do so.
Now Sally gives back. She is focused on showing people what living a healthy lifestyle can do for them and what it has done for her. She has taken the lessons she learned as an athlete and helped businesses train their employees to become better leaders and team players.
Being great and being selfless are not mutually exclusive. Sally has shown it in her life and you can do it in yours. The more you help others, the greater you become, and the more you develop yourself, the better asset you can be to the world.
Asking for Help
An obvious, but challenging way to become the best version of yourself is to ask for help. This was all but non-existent when Sally was training to become an Olympian. It was almost unheard of for someone at her level of athletic success to meet with a psychologist. It was viewed as a weakness, not a smart decision.
While sports psychologists are popular today, with most professional teams hiring psychologists for their teams, asking for help is still difficult. But accepting support is a form of strength, not a sign of weakness.
As the only species that can’t function on their own for months and years after birth, humans are meant to lean on one another. It takes a community to raise a child AND to support an adult. Think about your goals and where asking for help can take you to the next level.
Reminding Yourself of Accomplishments
Even when Sally came in 5th in the world in her event, she had some doubts about herself. Success doesn’t automatically erase fear or disbelief. At every level, self-doubt exists and can be crippling to our performance.
Our mentality plays a major role in our actions. When we have successes or failures in one aspect of life, like sports, it often overlaps into other life events like family or work. Having a positive outlook in your running will help you to become a better mother, brother, employee, or friend.
For Sally, it came down to force feeding positive thoughts. When you are feeling down or doubtful, remind yourself that everyone else is having similar thoughts. Tell yourself that you have been working hard. Think about the times you pushed through, the time you have put in, or the tough decisions you made that helped you be where you are today. As you accept where you are and give your mind positive things to chew on, doubts will float away.
Sally has had to become an expert at tuning out the noises of the world. As an elite runner, she often competed against others that used illegal performance enhancing drugs. Sally knew that thinking about their potential advantage would only be a distraction. She told herself that those runners would get their comeuppance in time. Being honest with herself gave her strength that others couldn’t get.
In a sport as technical as the hurdles, drugs can only do so much. That’s what Sally told herself, but that’s also what is true about nearly every sport. Our mind is the greatest tool we have, and it is free.
As you continue your journey, use your free gift to do the best that you can do. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish, and your successes will bless the people around you.
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Thank you to Sally, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.