“You can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Did someone ever tell you this? Of course they did. We tell children some version of this statement all the time. Kids need to learn the value of hard work; they need to feel the satisfaction that comes from working hard to finally achieve a goal. However, as you grow up there will inevitably come a point in which you realize that no matter how hard you work, how dedicated you are, or how much you want a goal, you will come up short.
Now, don’t just dismiss me as an unrelenting pessimist who hates the world. I truly believe hard work beats talent. I think that you should work for what you want, and that there is no better feeling than working your ass off and finally accomplishing your goal. However, college and the years after teach you that not every goal will be achieved, and you have to learn how to deal with this.
Maybe you had a long-term athletic goal that you did not reach, because of an injury or bad luck. Maybe it was that internship that you wanted above all others, and didn’t get. Or maybe your relationship ended when you thought it never would. Whatever the case, this failure is a hard pill to swallow, and you are left wondering, “now what?”
What are you supposed to do when you are taught to believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to – only to realize that in fact, you may not be able to? How does this feel? Well, it feels confusing. You start to question if all your hard work was worth it. Was it worth it to invest such a large part of yourself into something that you ultimately did not succeed in?
I had these thoughts. I spent my college years as a Division 1 gymnast, working to help my team qualify for the National Championship. I voluntarily spent my summers in the gym, made sure to watch what I ate, didn’t go out much, and did my best to be a good leader for my teammates. Nonetheless, after coming up short for four years straight, I questioned if the years I spent working towards my goal, doing everything “right”, had been in vain. Was it worth it to sacrifice so much, to invest everything I had, in this one ultimate goal, only to not achieve it? For a while, I wasn’t sure the answer to this question was ‘yes’.
Everyone experiences some version of this, especially around the college years. So the question is, how do you move on?
As the initial shock wears off and time passes, you will come to realize that yes, it was all worth it. Think about it this way. Did you enjoy the time you spent in pursuit of this goal? Did you learn something? Did you meet new people along the way? Did the experience make you grow as a person? If you can honestly answer yes to at least one of these questions, then the time you spent was not in vain.
Life is hard. It’ll knock you down time and time again. But every time you get knocked down, you learn something. Every time you come up short, you gain experience, you gain insight, and you gain perspective. This is not to say it’ll be easy. When you are completely dedicated to a goal, job, or relationship, and you ultimately come up short, it can be crushing. It might take a long time to recover. And that’s okay.
Part of growing up is learning that maybe all your dreams won’t come true, no matter how hard you work or how much you want them. And an even bigger part of growing up is learning to accept this, move past it – and, ultimately, find something new to immerse yourself in. Personally, I am still looking for that new ‘something’ to fill the void gymnastics left.
Coming up short of something is a part of life and an important part at that. Because really, if you achieved everything you ever attempted, there would be no satisfaction in success.