"Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
~Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Growing up, I was lucky enough to constantly receive praise for putting myself out there; for striving to “level up,” regardless of whether I got knocked down along the way or made the leap flawlessly. This positive reinforcement has blessed (or cursed?! haha) me with the confidence to lay out goals that some might label unrealistic and go after them.
I’ve become increasingly aware of people criticizing others who are chasing their dreams, from the safety of their home, having never put themselves out there. Maybe this awareness is a natural byproduct of pursuing a career in sport, where you are only as good as your most recent result, or perhaps its because social media gives everyone a soapbox and megaphone. I’ve heard it in reference to me, and I’ve seen and heard it in reference to others. So when I came across the following quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it resonated deeply:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
In the words of FDR, I’ve chosen to live my life “in the arena,” whether in the context of school, business, or sport. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I’ve gotten closer to the pointy end of the female draft-legal triathlete field, I’ve come to realize that in a certain respect, I used to be one of those critics. It’s very easy to watch people on a livestream or the television and say, “Why did they even attempt that <insert event>? They’re getting crushed,” and overlook both what it took to reach that level and the bravery to step out of their comfort zone, into the arena. I realized how guilty I had been of passing judgement when I didn’t really know athletes’ stories, motivations for racing a certain event, etc.
As we begin 2019, I have plenty of big exciting goals in 70.3 to chase; I’m scared and excited and have an amazing team surrounding me—coaches, squad-mates, family, and friends—all the making of something special. But I’m also using the new year as a chance to remind myself of who I want to be when I look in the mirror: not someone who says, “I could easily do that. Look at them flying across the world only to get crushed. I could beat them. I’m more legitimate than them” without having gone for it myself; but rather, someone who says, “Good for them for putting themselves out there!” And suits up for battle myself.
This year, you can say, “I’m totally as good as them. I could do it.” Or you can go out there and actually find out. This year, I challenge you to dare greatly; to do that thing you’ve been wanting to but have avoided, haven fallen prey to Resistance. And the next time you catch yourself judging someone else who is fighting the fight and doing the same, stop yourself to ask, “Are they in the arena?” If they are, celebrate their choice and wish them only the best in their quest for whatever they define as greatness for themselves.