"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations." –Michael J Fox.
I started this blog off with that quote for about 100 different reasons…mainly because I am in the middle of Finland with nothing to keep me entertained in between throwing sessions other than my own thoughts. Last night, I was watching one of four channels on tv here at the training center in Finland, and happened to come across an interview with Michael J, Fox and Jimmy Kimmell. What I heard over the next few minutes really struck a cord in me and I felt compelled to ramble about it. So….Michael J. Fox just wrote a book called,” Always looking up, the Adventures of an Incurable Optimist”. For a quick re-cap, Michael was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease back in 1991 and since has been active in helping change peoples lives with what he coins his new outlook on life.
What does this have to do athletes or people that are totally healthy? I believe that it directly corresponds to athletes’ mental state leading up to major competitions and more importantly afterwards. Lets backtrack a few minutes (or months) looking back on the Beijing Olympic Games. There was a great deal of research done by the US Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field on why so many of the US athletes did poorly or not as well as was “**expected**” (**key phrase here**) at the Olympic Games. There where graphs, charts, and tons of calculations and many other scientific means of evaluation that a lot of people spent endless hours searching for the elusive answer of “why”. I heard one answer that came from the very top of the USOC Sports Science department…this answer was derived after countless meetings and reviews on why so many athletes did worse than “**expected**” and that answer was exactly this…and I quote,
“Mike, you know what we found out? Sometimes Sh*t just happens”
Lets jump forward now, back to what I saw in one of the most enlightening 10 minutes of my life. Michael J. Fox was asked, “how is it that you have found so much happiness through acquiring a disease that most people would find extremely hard to deal with?” His answer was simple, he said “"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations." He began to explain how he has accepted the fact that he has Parkinson’s disease, there are no options there, he has it, didn’t ask for it, cant give it back, its there. So he has accepted it, where he has options is how he deals with it and makes choices around it. His happiness grows with proportion to his acceptance. He then began to explain that his “**expectations**” are often times what leads to his disappointment, if he has no expectations then he cannot be disappointed.
Now before you run off and say, how can you have no expectations! Lets define expectations… here is a good quote to help set it up:
'”Hope is the product of knowledge and the projection of where the knowledge can take us.” Christopher Reeve
Expectations in athletics are sometimes confused with hopes and dreams…at least I think so. I am all for dreams, but expectations maybe not. I know that I had all of these expectations of myself for Beijing and when I did not meet those expectations, I was beyond devastated, it was a feeling I cannot even put into words, and I don’t think I actually accepted the result for many months. I made excuses to myself to help cope with the tremendous disappointment of my performance. Looking back (the famous phrase) I would have saved myself a few grey hairs and a lot of grief if I would have just went into the competition with no expectations and accepted the result and moved on. Easier said than done when the eyes of the world are focused on you I know, but it seems as the ones who did well were just happy to be there and had no expectations, only dreams.
How can this help athletes in the future? I know that every athlete that competes in any sport wants to do the very best they can possibly do on any given day. No one intentionally performs poorly or doesn’t try hard. So it just seems like common sense to me now to have no expectations for your upcoming performance, regardless of where you training is, or your last competition. Accept the results, and make your decisions on how to deal with whats next. I know that track and field is a very “what have you done for me lately” sport and often times your only as good as your last meet in the eyes of the general public. In my event if you are consumed about how far you are “**expected**” to throw or how your managers, meet directors and coaches think of you… then you are in for a few sleepless nights.
“what other people think of me is none of my business” Michael J. Fox