Posts tagged perserverence

"Don’t try." "Just Do!" An Olympic Gold Medal Athlete’s method of discovery in learning to meet adversity with empowerment!


“Training for 24th Olympiad”

As I began training and competing for the Olympics, I had one, seemingly, insurmountable hurdle, ‘Champions’ need to believe in themselves. The difference between a great athlete and a champion is all in that ‘I can’ attitude. Yet I had grown up thinking I wasn’t good enough, and never would be! Somehow I just had to find a way to change my thinking!

As I began training and competing in the sport of Taekwondo, I quickly discovered although I was stronger and faster than many of my competitors, I didn’t have the endurance. And what good was it that I would win the first and second round, yet then lose in the third. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t even have the mindset to persevere. Once things got tough…my mind would overrule my body, and I would just quit! I knew that if I wanted to be an Olympic contender, I needed to change this! So I decided to go train in upstate New York, with a famous coach, known for producing competitors with amazing stamina. His athletes had that ‘indomitable spirit’ that I was lacking.

During one of the first training sessions, we were doing a repetitious kicking drill which was designed to increase stamina. Everyone had a partner holding a kicking paddle that we kicked as many times and as fast as we could. At some point, when my endurance was failing, he came over and took the paddle from my partner and held it for me. Each time I started to tire and slow down, he yelled at me to continue. About the third time this happened, I snapped, and yelled back, “I’m TRYING!” Well, he lowered the kicking pad, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Try…not good enough!” “Everyone ‘try,’ but not everyone ‘champion.’” “Don’t ‘try!’” “Just DO!” And he raised the kicking paddle for me to continue with the drill.

The thing is…how do you ‘just DO,’ when you don’t know that you can DO? How do you ‘do,’ when you don’t believe that you can do?” When you’re mind is saying, “Uh-uh…I don’t think so!” Well, I learned the amazingly important answer to the first half of that puzzling question in another training session with that coach!

One of the biggest elements to this coach’s training program was running. That was something I had been doing as little of as possible. I had discovered back in high school, that long distant running would make my heart start ‘racing’ 90 thousand miles an hour. And then the racing heart would trigger an asthmatic reaction that would close off my lungs. But since I was there in New York to train and learn, and I was determined to improve, I went with the program as best as I could.

One of the runs he’d have us do was an extremely difficult one up and through a cemetery. It seemed impossible for me to do this run successfully, and on my last two efforts, I had been forced to stop and walk up the steepest hill. On this third attempt, despite my determination, I found myself laboring as usual as we began to climb the dreaded hill. About a quarter of the way up, with my breathing coming hard and fast, my heart started racing. A few beats later, the asthmatic reaction set in, and my desperate lungs began closing off further. Panic stricken, I came wheezing to a stop, bending over, trying desperately to get some air into my starved lungs. My coach, who’d been staying alongside me to encourage me, came up to me – I thought to help reassure me. Not!

To my surprise, he came up behind me, placed his hand on my back and started pushing me unceremoniously up the hill! Oh the indignity of it. He completely ignored the fact that I couldn’t even breathe, and that I was close to passing out or getting violently sick. “How insensitive!” “How unbelievable!” As I stumbled forward from the pressure of his hand, I became angry and started moving forward on my own. As I put one foot in front of the other, muttering angrily to myself, trying to pull away, he kept pace, with his hand resting on my back as a reminder that he was not going to let me stop.

Fuming with anger and indignation, it was with surprise that I discovered I had reached the top of the hill, and that I hadn’t passed out. Although my breathing was still labored and wheezing, I discovered that, if I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other…I could keep going! That revelation sounded off in my head like a trumpet from heaven. As my coach pulled ahead and let me continue on my own down the hill, that thought pounded in my brain with each forward footstep. I realized that I had been thinking, “I can’t make it,” “I can’t do this.” “I’m going to pass out!”

Yet, once I had taken my mind off of those negative thoughts, and focused on something else…I had discovered that, “Hey,” “I could do it!” “I could keep going.” From that time on… every time I began to think, “I can’t,” and want to come screeching to a halt… I would force myself to keep taking just one more step…and I would replace my negative thoughts with positive ones!

For the remainder of those days before the Olympics, I would use what I had learned in these two powerful lessons on overcoming the limitations of the mind, so that I could have that the possibility to create amazing results!

And just before entering that competition ring at the Seoul, Korea Olympics, I realized I had the answer to the second question of, “How do you ‘do,’ when you don’t believe that you can do?” And so, therefore, I WON that gold medal!

Just ask me! 🙂

Believe me, one moment in time can change your life forever. Whatever you have to do to achieve, “Don’t try!” “Just DO!”

cc danahee 2004

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INTERNAL POWER BEGINS WITH A POSITIVE MIND-SET!


I find that when we seek to improve upon our sense of self…we often turn automatically to the external tools of making us feel better…getting our hair done at the beauty salon, going to lift weights at the gym, taking that cool Harley out for a ride, buying/cooking/eating delicious and satisfying foods, and sometimes in my case…going shopping. Hey…she who dies with the most shoes, wins! Right? Aghh! (buzzer sound). Wrong!

Now if only my ‘natural’ instinct was to work from the ‘inside-out,’ life would become much easier. My life would be filled with much more peace, power and happiness. But then, I’m the Chinese ‘Ox.’ I often put my shoulder into that ‘yoke,’ and choose to do things the hard way. Fortunately, since I am aware of my shortcoming…I now to work at changing my life-long pattern of behaviors so that I can achieve higher levels of love, satisfaction, and sense of ‘self.’

It’s my personal experience and feeling, that everything we want and desire is out there in the universe waiting for us to tap it on the shoulder and say, ‘Come here.’ It’s my personal belief, that ‘God’ wants all the best for us. So then…why do we not walk on that bed of roses, if what we want is so very possible? I believe it’s a negative behavior pattern learned from years and years of using ‘external’ power to try and satisfy our internal needs. Question is….how can we change this and tap into the riches of the world that awaits us?

I have discovered that a positive mind-set is the first step we can take to help ourselves.

“Nothing will ever change without movement!” I’m sure you’ve heard that quote. And it’s so true. Believe me I know. Because I did NOTHING the first 25 years of my life to change that which I needed to change! I ran from anger, confrontation, sorrow, and rejection. Heck…I even ran from opportunity because I was afraid I might fail! I refused to ‘step-up’ and take my place in this world, because I was too afraid to take a risk…too afraid to accept a challenge. I was too afraid to even hope. It wasn’t until I reached an emotional crises in life, that I finally began to realize that ‘this’ was no way to live! And so it was…that I discovered that ‘change’ begins with the power of the mind.

In High School, I was pretty much considered a ‘loner.’ I was tall and thin to the point of bony. I was extremely introverted and spent the majority of my free time in the library with my nose buried in a book. And on the special holidays that many kids would get carnations or cards in their lockers…I would often send myself a couple, just to make it look like I had some friends too.

I imagine that things would’ve remained pretty bleak for me throughout High School, if I hadn’t of discovered, that I had a real talent and opportunity to be successful in the track and field event of the high jump. Discovering that I was actually ‘good’ at something began to transform my soul…and with the emotional support of my new Foster parents, I began to train and compete. It didn’t take long before my self-esteem and self-confidence began to grow. Soon I was interacting with other students and participating in after-school activities. I had found a tiny star within myself and I was learning how to make it shine.

By my senior year in high school, I was a different woman. I had fallen in love, and had a fiancé. I had a good job, and I had started dressing nice and taking care of myself. Because of the high jump, I had received a scholarship offer and a training sponsorship with a top Stanford University coach. By the time I graduated High School, I moved out to live with my fiancé, and started taking college prep classes at the local Jr. College. I felt ready to take on the world.

But then, everything turned upside down once again as I was suddenly hit with the emotional whip-lash of being pulled into interacting with my mother (who was recovering from yet another suicide attempt…which she had done in the effort to pull me back into her life), and then I was hit with the news that my grandfather had just hung himself.

To try and keep my sanity, I shut myself off from my emotions, and retreated into the safety of my day-dreams and the sanctuary of hard training. And as I trained with that top coach, I began to day-dream of what it would be like to go to the Olympics and win an Olympic Gold medal. Deep down inside…I just knew that if I could win an Olympic Gold Medal, then I would really ‘BE’ someone. Then I would truly be happy. But just as the going got tough, I let my old fear of failure get the best of me. I couldn’t bear the thought of what would happen if I tried my best, and discovered that, once again, I wasn’t good enough.

It was just like that old saying…that the higher up the ladder you climb, the further you have to fall. And I had fallen so many times before, that I had become deathly afraid of the pain I would feel when I hit the ground. So one day, when I was frustrated and discouraged, I gave up. I just turned and walked away from my dream. I never even said good-by or thank you to my coach. I was too afraid to face his reaction.

Only something unusual happened that day. For the very first time, after spending years running away from any pressure or conflict, I realized what a coward I was being. Hey…I had the talent, and for the first time, I had someone supporting me. It was ‘possible’ that I would’ve been able to make my dream come true. But, now…I would never know. Because I had just given up without even trying! That thought settled in my brain and began to haunt my heart…as the rest of my world began to fall apart.

On the surface, I presented my survivalist ‘game-face’ that everything was just fine. But stressed out with inner turmoil, and emotionally shut-down, my relationship with my fiancé quickly deteriorated and fell apart. I was on my own once again.

To hide from my disappointment and anxiety, I quit college, buried myself in work and began training in the Martial Arts. To everyone else, my life seemed just fine. But deep inside, I was falling apart at the seams. I didn’t return phone calls, or follow through on things. I avoided any and all emotional connections. I didn’t even go to visit my grandmother whose health was failing…even though I knew it was the last chance to see her. I was going through life like a zombie…keeping myself busy, and trying not to think about anything, or feel anything. It felt like I was all alone in the ocean, slowly sinking in a rickety boat full of tiny little holes. I knew that I needed to rescue myself before it was too late…but I didn’t know how.

Just when I was about to capsize, my salvation arrived with my newly found talent in the full-contact fighting sport of Taekwondo. I had been training in the Martial Arts for about five years at this time, and had just started competing in sparring matches. Placing second in my first National competition in 1986, I discovered that this sport was to be introduced in the upcoming ‘88’ Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The revelation, that here was my second chance to make my Olympic dream come true, hit me square between the eyes.

At that moment, it became startling clear to me that I could not just walk away again. I’d been given a second chance, and by God, I’d make the most of it! I was tired of running away from everything. I knew that I needed to draw the line and make a stand. So I swore to myself, that this time, no matter what, I would take this dream and make it come true. And if I failed…well at least I would know that it wasn’t because I didn’t give it 100% effort. I would know that, for once in my life, I did not let my fears get the best of me! Like a drowning person clinging to a life-raft, I made the determination to save myself by clinging to my long standing dream of Olympic Gold.

So at the age of 25, I took the little glimpse of hope that my newly found talent gave me…I told myself, “Be not afraid!” and I took one tiny step towards my dream.

(Dana’s Olympic gold medal win. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44gy17PKDnk )

Ok….so ‘that’ was quite a few years ago. Yet that one step changed my life, because it taught me that good things ARE possible. We just need to know this, so that we can begin to BELIEVE it to be possible. Well through the years, I have taken that one step with courage to make my dreams come true. First with the Olympics (in the full-contact fighting sport of Taekwondo), then with my dream of becoming a top Stuntwoman in Hollywood, and now, with my dream of becoming a great motivational speaker. Sure, I know that I may never reach the heights I aim for. But I DO know that it IS possible. So when I stumble and fall, I pick myself up, brush off the dirt, re-set my mind, and reach out to claim my happiness from the universe.

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