I challenge you going forwards after reading this blog post, that whenever you feel down, or as though everything is going wrong, to reappraise the moment. It took me 8 years to learn this skill. And it changed how I viewed the world, my appreciation for the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my life, and most importantly it boosted my own confidence.
It started when I was a young swimmer, I was that young girl who gave everything she had no matter what was in front of her- perhaps it was my determination from my disability or simply my personality- I wanted to do everything, and do it well- otherwise what is the point? My swimming career was great, I have fond memories- I made friends for life, I learnt life skills in time management, discipline, and structured mindset. You can’t follow a single black line for hours along the pool bottom without learning to have a strong mindset!
But my career was tough, I had more disappointments than successes. Yes, I made the international team, I swam good times, I earnt medals- but most performances weren’t what I wanted or deserved based on my training efforts. I would hit fantastic times in training that didn’t translate into my racing. It was heart-breaking, frustrating, and created so much self-doubt. How could you give everything, and get nothing in return?
My coach however, was excellent. And this is where I began to learn positive appraisal, after each disappointing race, where I consistently swam the same time over and over again- top points for consistency! He would tell me- ‘yes it’s not the overall time you wanted, but what did you execute well?’. I used to hate the question, as I was annoyed, but he would reply with you had the fastest reaction time of the starting block, you held your breathing pattern, you were quick through the turn, or you finished faster than you ever have. The morale of this story is that just because the end result isn’t as we wanted, doesn’t mean we didn’t execute fundamentals of race correctly. From these comments, I would go forward thinking more so of what I did well, and redirecting my energy into motivating myself to get the other parts correct so that one day the whole execution would come together.
This reflective and positive thinking has changed my attitude to many things, we often visualise an event or moment ahead of time and we place perceived impressions of how an event should be, when in reality it hasn’t happened yet and we should add realism to the other scenarios that may occur. Opening our minds to ‘flow’ and going with the flow, and learning to enjoy a moment for what it is and not what we want it to be, can help with our positive experiences, learn to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘live in the moment’.
Many times I’ve faced fantastic opportunities or been part of devasting conversations or events- sometimes I find myself hiding from my own pain to help others see clearly. There is always a positive to be found from a situation- talking and boosting yourself and others can have a huge impact on your optimism throughout life.
Another athletic example which took me a long time to put a ‘positive’ spin on! Was winning my silver medal at the Rio Paralympic Games 2016. I made a mistake. I swum the wrong direction. It cost me my Gold medal. But it was still my first ever Paralympic medal. Devastated was an understatement. However, with hindsight, I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It leads you to become the person you are today, it shapes you and it allows you to have perception.
I may have won the silver that day, but it fuelled me to correct my mistake in the following years after. It lead me to starring on Strictly Come Dancing, SAS Who Dares Wins, I continued to push my athletic boundaries, I lived in another country, I started a wellbeing brand- all these things may or may not have happened if I had succeeded in getting Gold- I may have retired and since then have been doing something completely different.
There is a positive in every moment- I learnt a lesson, a very harsh one, but it helped my growth as a person. And I am proud of the girl I’ve become. I will always seek to find the light in the dark, to see the glass half full not half empty, as in my eyes I am rich with experience, opportunities, friends and family, and safe. Often it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as us- we strive for more to push ourselves further, but there is also someone around the world who prays for what you have- so we need to allow ourselves perspective, gratefulness, and gratitude.
Be a glass half full kinda person.