When failure looms, when change occurs, when life seems out of control, I remember that giving up is not an option. Instead, I adapt, making small forward-moving adjustments, strengthening my journey of progress.
Learning to adjust is nothing new for me. I’ve dealt with it my entire life. I was born with cerebral palsy, which affects the strength in my lower back and legs. I am also an athlete with sights set on skiing for Team USA in the 2022 Paralympics. This is my dream.
Along the way, I’ve learned five critical factors when it comes to embracing and accepting change.
Allow yourself to fail
Someone once said, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” When you push yourself to the limit, you will inevitably fall short. It’s what you choose to do next that matters. Rather than wallowing, make failure an integral part of your growth. Let it hurt, then let it help. The most important parts of my career have been my failures and the breakthrough that follows. I can trace all of my greatest successes back to a failure that fueled the competitive fire to improve.
Make short term goals
Joining the U.S. ski team at the Paralympics is no small feat. In fact, I have been training with the National Ability Center for over six years to accomplish my dream.
That’s why I set smaller goals that remind me of my passion for the sport. For instance, because of the weakness in my legs, we’ve had to alter my ski technique multiple times, all in an attempt to get the fastest race time. Every time a new method works, I celebrate the small victory and build momentum toward my larger dream.
Accept the new normal
I know the need to accept the new normal all too well. Back in March, I tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantined in my apartment. I was also still actively in training. I had to find ways to adapt my workouts to maintain my strength and keep me on track for the Paralympics.
The diagnosis was hard due to the uncertainty of everything at the time. Luckily my symptoms were minor, but for me, I was most impacted by the fear of how many people I could have spread the disease to before I was in quarantine. Once I had come to terms with the situation, I tried to accept it as a challenge. I used scrap wood from my apartment to build a stand that turned my outdoor bike into an indoor stationary bike. I filled backpacks with magazines and heavy objects. I did my best to turn my apartment into a home gym so that I wouldn’t take any steps back after a long and hard winter training at the NAC.
This current state of uncertainty has clearly demonstrated that while we cannot change the past, we can impact the future with our actions and perspective. Rather than allowing ambiguity to deter us, let’s focus on how we can adjust and make the necessary alterations needed to move forward.
Look for the good
Ever since I was little, I wanted to keep up with my brothers. But, with a disability, I struggled to do so. Instead of giving up and letting them win (which was not an option), I had to find my own unique way to keep the competition alive. While this presented an eternal challenge, that drive led me toward competitive ski racing and the National Ability Center.
Change is hard. Yet, there’s always a lesson in there if you look hard enough. Often, when faced with insurmountable odds, failure or a challenging situation, I ask, “How can I turn this into a good thing?” It helps me refocus.
Make sure you have a solid support team
We weren’t meant to do life alone. We need others to lean on. A solid support team provides accountability, helps you get inventive as you adapt, and lifts you up along the way. My ski teammates and coaches have been instrumental in motivating me in pursuit of my Paralympic goal. It has become not only my dream, but also theirs.
Adjusting isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. We have all experienced a period of immense transition these past few months. We’ve had to adjust, to make uncomfortable progress, to search for good in times where it seemed awfully hard to find. My hope is that we choose to embrace the change we are faced with and allow it to refine us and our hopes for the future. Our goals may look a little different than they did at the dawn of 2020, but that should only motivate us more to accomplish them.