Did you enjoy watching the Olympics? I sure did. I love seeing people push themselves to the outer reaches of their physical and mental limits, seeking to discover just how fast or how excellent they can be at their discipline. But probably even more than any particular sport, I love the inspirational stories that come out of the Olympics. These private peeks inside the athlete’s lives that reveal a bit of the their long and difficult journey to the world stage, beyond just the few minutes or seconds we see them on our screen. It usually involves some kind of intense struggle having been overcome, right?
“My mother told me to dream more realistically.”
“I didn’t have any money to train, so I lived in the basement below the rink.”
“We never had snow where I lived, so I had to move 1,000 miles away from my family.”
“I grew up ice skating by attaching kitchen knives to the bottom of my shoes.”
Well, maybe not the last one.
We sit on our couches and tears well up as we hear these amazing stories. Cut to commercial. Buy this new truck! Go see this movie. Drink this! Eat this yoghurt that helped this athlete get to Sochi! Then we “like” that yoghurt on Facebook and go to bed, content that we had a great night of inspiration.
We are being drugged by inspiration. Lulled to sleep by the awesomeness of other people. And I believe we’re missing the point.
What is the point of inspiration? What is the point of these great stories of supreme athleticism? What is the point of stories of great commitment and passion? I believe that it’s to demonstrate how we can, in response, live lives of great meaning and significance, and consequently, inspiration to others. Is that something you’d like to sign up for? I do.
I want to be a person fully alive, engaged and involved, dedicated and driven. It means that I have to live with my eyes wide open. I have to live seeking to find the beauty in the moment and the possibility in the future. It requires an intentionality that doesn’t just happen automatically. Sitting in my recliner happens automatically.
One of the ways I choose to be an inspiration to other people is through my songs and stories. And honestly, I’m still blown away when it happens. We all love being inspired. But sometimes I’ll leave a concert and wonder to myself what am I inspiring people toward? I hope I’m not inspiring people to simply say, “How great is that Mark!” or “Isn’t that great that he’s really choosing to live life to the fullest!”
I’d prefer people to say, “If he can do that, I wonder what I can do?” I want to inspire people to live off the couch. To be less passive observers of other people’s inspirational stories, and more active participants in writing their own inspirational story.
And sometimes the best way to find out how to tell a great story with your life is to realize what really moves you, and try to find out why. Usually there’s a huge amount of truth and guidance inside your own emotions.
I believe we’ve all been given extremely unique gifts, and when we seek to meet the needs of other people by using those gifts we tap into the mystery of life.
So now that they Olympics are over, you’ve got all this extra time on your hands…