Like Toy Soldiers…

Remember in school when you were told you could do anything you want if you put your mind to it? Well to some degree that is true, hopes and dreams are in reach and if you work hard enough you can certainly follow those dreams, however, sometimes life gets in the way and stops you from reaching those dreams and goals. Take the A Mind Of Its Own team for instance they all wanted to something else when they were children. Some of them followed their dreams and some of them came to their dreams later in life. Then there’s the genius behind A Mind of Its Own who is working on his dreams as a side project but before he found his love of writing he had a couple of other dreams that never came to fruition. So does that mean you should just give up on your dreams when you hit a few little speed bumps in the road? Nope, not at all…

Asking around we all went from dreams of being superheroes, ninjas, wrangling unicorns, being a cowboy, a spy, a ballerina married to Michael Jackson who drives a Mr Whippy van, an assassin. Ok so not everyone has dreams of becoming an imaginative, impractical professional when they grow up. Some people actually have dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, nurses, police officers, hairdressers and other reputable career choices. So how and at what point do most of us go from imaginative creative hopes and dreams to practical, mundane careers that take us through to retirement. At what point in life do we mature enough to know that what we once wanted to be will no longer be within our reach.

For some of us it’s not until you receive the final rejection notice to say because you beat your body up playing sport when you were younger, that you will not be accepted into the service of your country despite passing all the requirements. Or the fact that you gave up on a potential career as an athlete because you weren’t driven enough. But at some point it clicks in that you can and will do great things in the world but it’s going to take some work, hard work that will often make you question the why. University isn’t for everyone and not everyone will go on to higher education and earn a degree or certifications for that matter. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander as the old saying goes.

And so to the home of research for answers, no we aren’t using Wikipedia for answers this time we are heading to a place that is bountiful in resources and books that will hopefully answer some questions we have burning away in our little brains as to how we become mature. Not since university have we set foot into a library and there is a reason why, firstly librarians whilst this one was easy on the eye and not your stereotypical librarian but she was still very grumpy and very unhelpful. In her defense we really weren’t too sure as to how or what we wanted to research regarding this week’s topic. Did we start with maturity or did we start with hopes and dreams, were there books on hopes and dreams. To the stacks we wandered and peered at row upon row books with titles that were somewhat ambiguous.

The first big book we opened was a psychology journal that we then had to go and find a dictionary in order to understand. We learnt a few things about people that we didn’t quite understand as well as confirming a few facts about the next generation that we really wanted validated. Yes ladies and gentlemen all your thoughts and fears have been confirmed the youth of today whilst being apparently intelligent are well behind the curve when it comes to emotions. According to studies, the science variety from the ages of 11-14 we lose connections between cells in parts of the brain that enable us to think clearly and make good decisions. So on that note maturation must happen in most people after the age of 14 or 15.

Pruning the brain, or synaptic pruning, What happens is that the brain prunes itself, going through changes that will allow a young person to move into adult life effectively. “Ineffective or weak brain connections are pruned in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, giving the plant a desired shape,” wrote Alison Gopnik, professor of child development at UC Berkley. According to Ian Campbell, a neurologist at the U.C. Davis Sleep Research Laboratory. Mood swings and uncooperative and irresponsible attitudes can all be the result of these changes. Sometimes, we can’t explain why we feel the way we do. Our brains are changing from a child’s brain to an adult brain.

So we now know that our maturity is affected by changes in the brain and that it prepares us for adult life. So perhaps it through these years that we lose track of those hopes and dreams that just aren’t quite realistic or impractical as we go through maturation and those weak connections are pruned away to create adult ideas and adult hopes and dreams. It’s strange how we go from being carefree and footloose to having to be an adult on a daily basis. As we continued to search for connections as to how and why we grow and mature as people we read a lot of journals, articles and even a magazine or two on the science behind the psychology of why we develop intellectually and make changes in our lives. We aren’t saying that people follow their dreams from a young age but the majority of people change what they want to do.

A lot of us fall into jobs that we don’t necessarily want to do, we work away until we become so good at what we do there is no other path or we get paid a decent salary and have become accustomed to the lifestyle we are keen to keep. There are still plenty of people between the ages of 30-50 that don’t know what they want to do with their lives. A couple of the writers here are in that boat. Heck the bossman would love to write books for a living and the dogs well they’d love to be free range puppies that could do what they like when they liked. But as some point we all have bills to pay and people to look after so we all work and our hopes and dreams go off to die in a field of shattered dreams with most of the other adult population.

Where does the inspiration come from for those that know what they want to do for a living, what makes their brain pruning different to everyone else’s that they continue to carry those hopes and dreams into adulthood. Now there are always going to be elements or environments that influence and impact those final decisions to make sure we are truly dedicated to the path we are walking. It’s like all things in life, you know you are truly focussed and dedicated to a dream you’ll make it come true or die trying. Take athletes for example they are dedicated to their hopes and dreams following them through to the very end of their career but what about when their bodies give out? Do they have new hopes and dreams, do they continue to hold onto the life they formally had or do they create a new one after they’ve achieved as much as they can on their road to glory.

Diving into articles on the wonderful world of the interweb we came across several on why athletes are so driven to achieving their hopes and dreams. In one such article posted they explained that athletes have skills that are transferable to everyday life. These skills are gained through years and years of playing their sport and navigating through daily challenges of life. Traits such as Grit, Persistence, Competitive and Confidence are valuable throughout the various aspects of life.

Athletes usually endure failure better than anyone else because they experience so much of it throughout their athletic careers. By nature, athletes are goal driven; they often set high, specific expectations and goals to obtain awards, as well as championships. At one point or another, they are unsuccessful at achieving the goal(s) they set; which can be considered a failure. All athletes handle failure differently, but almost all eventually learn through it in some way. They persevere and continue to perform, despite experiencing failure. After all, it is said that the true measure of an athlete’s character and ability, is in how they handle themselves in the face of adversity or failure. Every single person experiences failure no matter the circumstance, but like Rocky said: “It is never about how many times you get knocked down. It’s about whether or not you get up afterwards.”

Below are several things that we can learn from athletes failures:

  1. Failure allows reassessment and feedback. It’s life’s greatest teacher. Successful athletes who experience a lot of failure in their career, are often some of the most successful because they are able to re-evaluate why they didn’t reach their goals, change direction and move forward. Failure is simply just feedback for what you need to do next time in order to be successful. It helps you analyze what went wrong in any given situation and take measures for getting it right next time. Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, set the record for the most home runs in a season. In the same season, he also struck out more than any other player in Major League Baseball. According to the Seattle Times, he struck out 1,330 times over his career; however, he was able to rise above his failures to hit 714 home runs. For Babe Ruth, failure was just feedback, telling him what he needed to do in order to be successful in the long run.
  1. Failure brings about resilience and mental toughness. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from any type of adversity or how to adapt in a disruptive situation or occurrence. Mental toughness is the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances. In athletics, these both can refer to trials due to injury, critics or fans, weather conditions and other uncontrollable variables. Most often it implies experiencing failure in some type of way. Resilience and mental toughness instill that “Never give up” attitude in athletes and pushes them through to reach their goals. The greatest athletes continue to be resilient and mentally tough despite the obstacles they face. Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, were down 3 games to 1 to the Golden City Warriors in the 2016 NBA finals. Although, the series seemed out of reach, they gained resilience and mental toughness, coming back to win the series 4-3 and ending the season as the 2016 NBA Champions.
  1. Failure is the only way to succeed. We only grow or reach success out of being in uncomfortable situations and that’s exactly what failure is. Failure is downright uncomfortable and never feels good. It certainly hurts a lot to lose and fail, but regardless of the emotional toll it takes on you, it is the quickest way to learn how to win. Take legendary NFL coach Tom Landry, for example. As the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Landry led the team two Super Bowl victories, five NFC Championship victories, and is one of the most winningest coaches of all time. He is also widely known for having one of the worst first seasons on record, not winning a single game. In each of his next four seasons, his team also recorded five or fewer wins. He failed repeatedly and that is largely why he is known as one of the greatest coaches of all time. Even Michael Jordan is quoted by saying: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Athletes who fail over and over, only to eventually succeed, are the ones who resonate the most in our hearts. They are the ones who we cheer for the hardest and the ones who give us hope that anything is possible, regardless of how unachievable the goal might seem. When these types of athletes succeed, it shows us that failure is never fatal and that it is okay to not get it right the first time. We may not always realize it, but athletes inadvertently teach us about how strong we are and what we are able to accomplish if we keep pushing on. Most of all, athletes teach us that even if failure is in sight, going through it is the only way to reach the plateau of success.

It’s safe to say that we should and often do look up to athletes as a source of inspiration or guidance when it comes to following our hopes and dreams. They set examples of what we should do and more importantly they show us that it’s ok to fail every once and awhile. But they allow us to hold onto those hopes and dreams while showing us that things take time and hard work. You can have hopes and dreams but they’ll remain just that if you don’t have a little spunk about you to fight for what you want. That’s the extra drive that those athletes tend to have over the rest of us, those extra skills that we don’t seem to be to possess until we’ve failed once or twice.

So until next week we’ll leave you with this, follow your dreams, keep your hopes and most of all work towards them even if they take your entire life to come true you hold on to them. Keep on working and make it happen no matter how long it takes, stay the path, stay true to yourself and never stop dreaming. Oh and always dream big, without big dreams this little blog would never have happened and the people who write it wouldn’t be where they are today. So we’ll leave you be as you continue to pursue your hopes and dreams and we’ll get to work on the next installment of A Mind of Its Own. Adios amigos…

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