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Clear and Present Thinking

319. An insignificant number to most people, but to me it means everything. It holds the key to the unknown. There are 319 days until the last day of the 2016 Olympics, which is the day so many questions I now ask myself will be answered. What will happen at Olympic trials? How will I handle what happens? Who will walk away from my events with medals at the Olympics? How accomplished will I feel by that last day? The possibilities of this next year extend endlessly through my mind: I could dominate the field, I could barely make the team, I could get an injury, I could shoot a miss on the last shot, I could fail.

For a while now, the thought of Olympic trials and the Olympics has crossed my mind constantly throughout each day. I wake up in the middle of the night from a dream about it, and stay awake thinking about it. Sitting in the top rankings of my events is new to me this Olympic quad, and I’ve had to brainstorm ways of how I want to handle the anxiety that comes with the unknown. How am I supposed to remain even remotely relaxed or calm during this time of “in-between”?

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner hosted by the US Olympic Committee. It was a lot of fun, but one part really struck me. In the middle, they played a slideshow honoring all of the Olympians and medalists who had passed away this year. (If you’re judging me for being a Debbie Downer, I honestly have no defense this time.) But you know what? Out of all of the athletes they showed, I had heard of maybe two or three of them, and knew the stories of even fewer.

This made me think. Hard. I don’t know about you, but my inspiration comes from people that I’ve met, talked to, and developed a relationship with. Sure, I love hearing stories like Remember the Titans and Miracle and Rudy that give me chills at the intensely emotional ending. But when I meet someone whose story and actions I have witnessed, there’s something much more personal about that. In a small way, I’ve been able to be a part of their story, which makes them a part of mine. Their positive attitude becomes my outlook and my hope for the future.

So as I sat there, watching the names and faces of the athletes appear and disappear from the screen, it hit me: I cannot control what will happen in the future—the distractions, the outcomes, the circumstances. But I can control this thought, this word, this shot.

An Olympic medal is significant because of what it stands for: the struggle of humanity towards excellence. And if I focus on the present, excellence and success will find me. What I am pursuing is more than just a medal around my neck or a making a team. Someday I’ll be gone, but I’ve been blessed to wake up every morning, put air in my lungs, and make a choice each moment of my thoughts and actions. Yes, these next 319 days are filled with enormous significance and yet so many unknowns. But they don’t matter. All that matters is one. This one day. This one practice. This one shot. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Paul Plauche

    I understand completely. I recently went through a similar process preparing for the World Field Target Championship. When I finally realized, what matters is the shots that I take. If I execute every shot perfectly, which is within my control. I will win. It’s that simple. Congratulations on seeing this now. Focus on your thoughts and actions. BTW. Have a little fun too;-)