Sometimes living with ALS makes me feel like I’m competing in the Olympics. I wake up in the morning and wonder how my body will perform that day. Then I lie awake at night rehashing all the things that went wrong. The voices in my head often sound like a panel of unsympathetic Olympic judges arguing among themselves.
I mentally critique my less-than-perfect walking, my fumbling fingers, and my failed attempts to pronounce words. I know it’s just my inner judges running amok. I’ll be the first to admit they are hard to control.
Recently, I adopted an attitude that helps me get through the day. It’s a new perspective on myself — one that I learned from an Olympian!
I recently attended a gala event held in honor of 16 outstanding individuals representing the World Acrobatics Society. During a special afternoon session, the honorees took questions from the audience. One of the questions was, “How do you handle the pressure of competing in front of judges?”
The first to speak up was Kent Ferguson, a champion springboard diver from the 1992 Olympics.
He said that when he dove competitively, he never thought about the judges or about going for a particular score. Instead, he always focused on creating the best aerial movement that he could achieve on that particular day.
Just then, Tim Hall chimed in. He has coached over 200 national champions in gymnastics and has earned 10 world titles. He said he tells the kids to be so good that the judges can’t complain.
Although many more words of wisdom were shared that afternoon, these two statements continued to roll around in my head for the remainder of the day. By the time the evening’s banquet concluded, I realized why their words made such an impression on me.
When combined, the statements gave me a perfect way to focus my attention while taming my Olympic-sized inner judges.
First, focus on living each day by being the best self I can be on that particular day. Each day, my body may perform differently than the one before. But I need to remain confident that I tried my best. At a day’s end, my rehashing should focus on the positives that happened so that my inner judges can’t complain.
Now, whether my day is full of challenges or turns out to be smooth sailing, I have a valuable life skill to tap into. I can even imagine myself following in the footsteps of champions!
How to tame your inner judges:
- Seize the day. Show up and engage with others.
- Stop comparing yourself to how you were in the past. Stop holding yourself to an unrealistic standard.
- End each day by creating a list of “gratitudes.” Focus on the people, places, and things you are thankful for.
Thank you, Kent and Tim! Sharing your encouragement with the world makes you true champions. Through you, we can continue to learn how to live well while living with ALS.
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