The Agony of Defeat or the Courage to Carry on

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As many of us watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics from the safety and comfort of our homes, we witnessed several of the world’s top athletes succumb to injuries or deliver performances far from what the world expected. These athletes, many of whom spent thousands of hours training to reach this pinnacle, were forced to face these obstacles head-on while we were all left wondering how they had the courage to carry on.

Seeing Michael Phelps win his record-breaking eight gold medals or the women’s volleyball team of Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Welsh take home yet another gold medal was phenomenal. But many times I think we often overlook the athletes who entered these games with great potential only to go home empty-handed.

While watching the women’s marathon, I was saddened to see U.S. runner Deena Kastor’s injury only 16 minutes into the event after her many years of diligent preparation. Then I watched British marathoner Paula Radcliffe, in all her glory, slowly fall farther and farther behind. She was determined to finish that race regardless of the pain we could all see on her face. Even Tyson Gay, the great American sprinter, was plagued with a hamstring injury, but yet he still put forth his best effort in the Men’s 100 meter preliminaries.

I bring this up because these athletes, like many of us, have their eyes set on a goal; a goal to go out and do their best and in the end hope they come out on top. However, when adversity stood in their way, they still gave it their all. A lesson we could all learn from while on our own personal journey.

For me, focusing too much on the destination and not enough on the journey does not allow me to embrace the place where I am today. There are many days in life that are easier than others. When I fall short of my goal, or worse never meet my expected goal, is when I learn more about this process we call living. Knowing that the struggle is what makes me who I am today is what allows me to keeping on reaching for that brass ring.

So when you feel you have done everything that you could to reach your goal and something unexpected arises, appreciate the knowledge that all your hard work is not lost or tossed to the wind. It takes courage and fortitude that each and every one of us possesses that will eventually get us through life's obstacles to meet our goals.

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This is such a timely blog for me today! For the past 2 months I have been struggling with staying on point with my SparkPeople commitment & program that I set up....and being discouraged because I haven't done so well after losing 33 lbs. This blog has hit me right between the eyes!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I CAN do this and WILL do this!! Report
I felt such pain for Paula Radcliffe, knowing that she probably felt she couldn't quit in two Olympic games in a row. And then to find out afterwards, that she was actually running on a broken bone -- guts, baby. I still feel badly for her. Report
Thank you... I needed that! Report
Great article! It reminds me of the old "Wide World of Sports" days with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Any of us who have set a goal and suffered a set back can relate but I can't image experiencing it on the world stage. That which doesn't break us, makes us stronger! Report
How true for every aspect of our lives. Report
Great article. thanks Report
Hi Nancy. great article. Report
This is what is helping me stick to my weight loss this time. Even if I have a bad day or don't do as well as I'd like I can start again tomorrow instead of throwing in the towel. You're still farther ahead if you get back to your plan right away. Report
So true! Report
This is why I do not use the scale as a measure of my success. Weighing weekly is too much for me. It depends on my mood, but monthly is better or just go by my clothes. Report
Great article! Everything you said is so true. I am definately guilty of betting my self up over not reaching a short term goal instead of looking at the whole journey. Report
Great article! I have been plagued by injuries this month and very frustrated that my running mileage is so much less than in previous months. This article makes me remember that even my lower mileage is part of the overall picture, and whatever I can do for that day is SOMETHING. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Nancy. Report
Good article and definitely something I need to remember.

Thanks Report
I don't believe in putting off until tomorrow or later something that can be done now. If I don't stick to a regimine DAILY, I find that I fall to the side quite easily. And if I 'allow' myself to say for example 'oh, my thigh is starting to hurt - I'll just stop now and do more tomorrow' I WILL stop and 'tomorrow' never comes. Instead I do a lot of self talk and work through the pains. I imagine that these extreme athletes are doing a LOT of self-talk - but we DO have to remember that THIS is their LIFESTYLE. This is what they DO. This to them is LIFE. And for them to quit or give in would not be in their lifestyle.
I have a lot of respect for EACH of these people for reaching the goal of olympic competition - as well as the THOUSANDS out there who didn't qualify. They still work hard to maybe reach that goal on the next try. Report
Amen! Every choice you make is a chance to start over! I used to let one bad choice ruin my whole day, or week... giving up until Monday, or whatever. Heard a WW leader say that's like dropping one dish from the cupboard, then deciding to start throwing all the dishes on the floor and breaking them! (We excuse ourselves by saying that we messed up once/twice... maybe a bunch of times, and now it's all over). We are "over our points/calories", whatever, so we may as well wait until we have a clean plate or a fresh tracker, if you will, to start over. It's sabatoge! Perfectionism! We get the chance to make hundreds of choices every day! It's inevitable that we'll mess up at something... we just need to keep our eyes on our goals and try to make a better choice next time... that may come in only a few minutes! If you make a bad choice, just pick up and make a better one next time! It's never too late!
Thanks for the great blog! Report
This journey is our life's journey, not just weight loss or getting healthy this is OUR LIFE! So the goals are different every day, we have a blueprint for each day if we are conscious and since it is life and not a rehearsal or a 'play' each day is different and we have to deal with each day in a different manor , giving up on this journey is to not deal with our 'journey' not to be alive fully in each moment, to be robots! Robots rarely fail until they break down, they have no consciousness, no empathy, no courage, no soul , they don't persevere they work or they don't, they don't dream. So everyone one of us on our journey of life, lets laugh, smile, work, sweat, dream, persevere, re evaluate, and LIVE the journey!
pj Report
The journey is the best. The achievement only comes with dedication, lots of hardwork and having a goal. Report
Thanks for this wonderful article! I've somewhat hit a slump on my weight loss journey in the last few days, and this was exactly the change of perspective and pick-me-up I needed. Thank you!!! Report
I have been at this for the past 11 months and I won't quit. With weight loss, even getting to the goal is NEVER 'the finish line' as you have to work as hard to keep the pounds off as you did to lose them. Report
The journey IS the gold medal... Report
Great article. I have set myself a new goal which I'm motivated into getting back into shape. Report
I think that Olympic Atheletes, oushing through an injury in the very competition that they have trained for, often for their whole lives, does not compare very well to the average person who uses sports for fitness.

Compeitive atheletes are always performing at the edge of injury. They push themselves just as far as can possibly be done; while we who lead civillian lives and enjoy sports for our health and well-being need to be concerned about things like over-training.

I am exercising for weight loss, and I just learned in a group of Sparkpeople articles the symptoms of overtraining, and what to do about it. Worst of all, I learned of its association with the dreaded "P" word.....PLATEAU!

I do not need or want to continue sports performance beyond the ever-increasing endurance of my body. I am not a professional athelete. And though I think the point about getting there being the most important part of the journey is well taken, I think that the analogy with Olympian atheletes performing in spite of serious injuries to not be applicable in this context. Report
Thank you so much for writing this this. I really needed to read this today. It's helped me a lot. Report
This is an extraordinary comparison. so mqany people get started on a weight loss journey with expectations of quick results. I was like that many years ago. The journey is our lives and unlike with an Olympic event, everyone can win. I hope that there were other ways to win in Beijing as well. I think being there is a success, meeting other world class athletes is a success, visiting a cultural giant like China is a success, being cheered on by others, wearing the uniform of the home country, etc... In our weight loss journey, we can take as long as we want--and we can get to the finish line in our own time. We get to see the beauty around us and enjoy all of the little things that happen on our way there. Thanks for writing this--I'll be thinking about it for a long time. Sylvia Report
Goals are a good thing EXCEPT when they keep us from moving forward and achieving all we can be and all we can do! Thanks for that perspective .... it was needed today!!!! Report
There is that saying "If you first don't succeed try, try again" is one that I try to live by. Report
Yes giving up is not the answer. We have to give it a try no matter what and go on
with whatever we do. Being older now I wish I had kept that in mind all the time. Report
Doing our best no matter what will always keep up on track to our goals. I am a competitve swimmer and I set my own goals and take the tact of swimming against my own times, not the swimmers next to me who might not even be in my age group. Focusing on beating someone defeats the purpose. Continuous improvement is the important factor in making the journey a lifetime quest. Report
We are so blessed in this country of ours that others are dying just to get here to make a better life for themselves and for their families. When we think of the goodness that God in His infinite has given us, it is hard to look back on our shortcomings. Be thankful everyone on this board and all over this country! Because if God's blessings were ever taken away from us we will all be sorry! Report
I am bad at beating myself up for the reaching my goal in the time I wanted too. I am not sure how to correct this. I should be happy with the results of my hard work. I should be happy and pray for those who are really struggling. Report
I think we get so focused on the goal we forget about the process. The things learned in the process is equally important. Report
Peace be with all. Report
I completely understand the concept of embracing the journey instead of the destination. For a few years I couldn't understand or grasp how I was not ending up in or anywhere near my destination but never realized how little attention I was paying to my decisions and actions in the here and now. It was like waking up from a terrible trance when I finally got the clue! Now, I am more focused on my actions and decisions in the here and now and left my destination up to God because I can't control what happens in the future, I can only control my actions and decisions leading up to the future. Be blessed in your journey and in all that you do, I hope you learn as I do on this journey we are taking and share it with anyone who is willing to listen!

Peace and Blessing! Report
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