Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. We all know this, yet so often it is the easy path that tempts us, the path of least resistance, the short road to little reward.
Greatness is hard, it has to be earned and greatness offers no shortcuts; it requires a daily – no – a moment-by-moment commitment to achieving greatness, to doing whatever it takes to move a step closer to the summit of our potential.
For the next two weeks we will have the privilege of witnessing supreme physicality as athletes push themselves to the very limits of human speed, endurance, strength and grace (and, sadly, beyond the limit in some cases with some chemically created assistance) in pursuit of precious metal at the 31st Olympic Games in Rio. New names will be carved into history, each stamped with the mark of greatness, each having scaled the peak of their own personal mountain.
To get to this point each athlete has sacrificed, suffered and single-mindedly focused on being at their very best – physically, mentally and emotionally – at this moment in time. A moment that in some cases will last mere seconds but whose outcome will punctuate years of toil. For some, like Nicola Adams following the London Olympics, life will never be the same again.
It all begins with a dream, with ‘daring to be great’, and a subsequent determination to do whatever it takes to assure arrival at the desired destination. Along the way there will be stumbles, setbacks, tumbles and tears, but throughout it all the eye remains fixed firmly on the goal; the sense of purpose, once set never in doubt, regardless of the obstacles faced along the route.
Greatness takes many forms and great deeds are performed every day, far removed from the enthusiastic applause of the crowd and the loving lens of the camera. Acts without fanfare, without garlands and gold; greatness cloaked in the ordinary.
The more I see and experience of life the more I appreciate the majesty in the apparently mundane. Ordinary greatness. It is the everyday toils and travails that lay the path towards greatness, for Olympians and for the rest of us; it is about doing the right things consciously, consistently, continuously.
Scaling the summit is but a moment – our greatness lies in the steps that took us there.
It is doing the difficult things – embracing the challenges and welcoming those moments that test the depths of our character – that will define us, not in the eyes of others but in the eyes and hearts of ourselves. In these moments there is no place for us to hide; the deepest parts of us are exposed as we are beckoned to rise.
We recognise these moments that define our character, opportunities for us to do the difficult thing and face down our fears and be the person that we hope ourselves to be, or to allow our spirit to shrink at the altar of expedience and to take the easy road. Regardless of who we wish ourselves to be, of who we believe ourselves to be, with our actions the truth of who we are is revealed in these moments.
So many times in life the difficult thing to do happens to be the right thing; right by ourselves, right by others. When life asks us who we are our choices reveal the answer. And regardless of what anybody else sees, what anybody else thinks of us, in those quiet moments when we are alone with ourselves, we know.
Did we rise to the challenge of being our better selves? Did we forego the comforting lies that allow us to turn our backs on doing the difficult thing and allow us to settle for mediocrity? Did we face the hard truths that reveal our weaknesses whilst simultaneously beckoning us to take the steps necessary to tackle them?
Our guide along the way is our purpose, the pinnacle that we see before us in the distance; by keeping our sights resolutely focused on our goal, our purpose, it doesn’t matter how distant the horizon may be, it is reachable.
This purpose is ours to find – whether we believe that it is entwined with destiny, an eternal truth awaiting our discovery; or whether we believe it to be self-created, meaning created from what is inherently meaningless – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find it.
With purpose comes passion, persistence and fight, as difficult situations are recognised not as life’s way of bringing us down and dragging us back, but as life’s way of catapulting us towards a better future.
Challenge is inevitable, so too is choice. It is up to us to choose to do the difficult thing, to do the right thing. Such choices are the seeds from which our dreams will grow to be our reality.