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Terry Erickson: Living the Olympic values

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Terry Erickson

Terry Erickson referees a state tournament game at the Kohl Center 

We have all gone through some difficult times in the past several months. There are more hurting people than ever before, many wondering if they have the strength to go on. Needless to say, the world needs some good news with the backdrop of a looming pandemic, along with the prevailing divisiveness we see in the world.

The Olympic games have provided a meaningful and positive diversion to these problems with a level of joy heard around the world, a joy that needs no translation. Many of us spent a great deal of time watching the Olympic games with over 11,000 athletes from 206 countries competing in 33 different sports. Countless stories unfolded during those 17 days. Our enthusiasm will no doubt accelerate with the Paralympics scheduled to begin next week where 4,400 athletes from 168 countries compete in 33 sports. My sense is that we will be blown away by the compelling stories associated with the athletes involved in these games.

So, the questions are, how can the Olympic games and these stories make an impact in our personal journey through life? What are the inspirational qualities that are evident in Olympic athletes? How do they display the three Olympic core values of personal excellence, friendship and respect? Let’s explore each one.

Personal excellence is a quality that seems to shine brighter than any other quality with the dedication and commitment displayed by Olympic athletes in training and in competition. They know that this quality could possibly get them to the world stage. If we want something bad enough in our lives, ultimate personal excellence and dedication with disciplined habits and a good lifestyle could very well be the key factors in reaching our own full potential.

Personal excellence is also a focused and a strong mind. Olympians seldom, if ever, take no for an answer. While others quit, they keep going. While others doubt, they persevere. That strength is not necessarily something these athletes were born with. We may have not been blessed with that strength in our own DNA either. But, we can acquire that inner strength of mind by surrounding ourselves with good people, avoiding naysayers, and by learning to pay gratitude to the things in life that really matter. An old Indian Chief summed it up best when he said, “The Darker the night, the bolder the Lion.” Your strength can show through in the darkest of days when your inner warrior takes center stage.

The goal of personal excellence can be a real turn-off for many of us. Sometimes we struggle with the energy to reach our own goals. Olympic athletes seem to be motivated no matter how they feel. Rain or shine, the voice of the inner warrior takes over. We can have the same discipline by embracing our own inner warrior. That warrior usually responds to what we feed him.

Friendship is at the heart of the Olympic games. Friendship bonds are indeed precious for life as witnessed by the power of international competition where athletes create relationships for a lifetime. Friendships can demonstrate the ability to build bridges of acceptance and mutual understand with people all over the world.

For all of us, the Olympics teach us about team building as a part of friendship. We all have a huge supporting entourage of friends that have made a huge impact in our lives. Friends create meaning to our lives as we play within the rules under the spirit of sportsmanship We are told that friends are the family we choose for ourselves. Those friends are happy for our successes and are always there to pick us up when we fall. Friends help to define who we are. One of my favorite Proverbs says, “Friends are flowers in the garden of life.”

The core value of respect begins with respecting ourselves first. Deeply respecting yourself is the first step toward having a deep respect for others. Olympic athletes demonstrate that value to a high degree. They seem to understand that it starts with a healthy body attitude, living proof of the mantra,”your body is your temple.” They have a disciplined diet, exercise often, and take regular recovery periods to rest and recharge. We can follow this lead by giving our bodies the best chance to have optimal health with the strong possibility of a long and healthy life. We have the same life choices as the Olympic athlete.

I am taken back by the degree of respect for other competitors on display at the Olympic games. I struggle as we do not seem to embrace this spirit of appreciation and respect on a smaller scale and in the game of life. We can contribute to a peaceful world as we build respect, eliminate judgmental attitudes, discrimination and divisiveness.

As we reflect on the Olympic Values, we can take the opportunity to evaluate our own habits and lifestyle. We can aspire to elevate to a new and higher level of excellence in our own personal life as we evaluate how we live each day, how we respect others, what we say to others, how we spend our time, how we handle success and failure, how we create and nurture friendships, and how we react to challenges and setbacks.

The spirit of a value driven Olympic athlete can live inside all of us each and every day. It can help define who we really are.


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