Friday, May 20, 2011

Courage, Risk, Community

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." - Maya Angelou

Back in 2006, when I began my masters program in Sport Management my first professor was a guy named Dr. Rich Cellini. From day one he insisted that we accept that our friends, peers, and colleagues want us to succeed. Really, really, really, we were surrounded by people who wanted to help us get where we needed to go. We were also those same people who wanted to help others make it. That concept was primary. We were instructed to get to know people, to get out there, to remember people, to stay in touch. We were to always, under every circumstance, maintain an up-beat approach, an optimistic outlook, and to implement a relentless try-again policy when things didn't immediately turn to gold.

Cellini taught us a lesson in courage. That is what is outlined above. Yes, life can be messy and there are exceptions, but the overarching theme is right on. We need each other to do our best work.

When I was first learning how to be a trainer and coach, I had mentors and coaches (and still do). When I first stepped on the mat, people took time to teach me how to move, (and still do). When I coach a class, the group makes space for the new member, encouraging them to grow into the shared experience. Life would be lonely if we weren't engaged in helping each other grow.

The stalling point is when we don't reach out for something we want for fear of being turned away at the door. Sometimes this happens and it hurts. But that is not the end of the story. Reach out again. Then do it again. There will come a point when the reaching is no longer scary. There will come a point when the door opens. The important thing is to keep moving and outwardly engaging. The other alternative is to stay at square one, dissatisfied. Persistent effort is inspiring. Be that inspiring person. Help others be persistent.

For what its worth, I hear so many stories about people who hate the gym environment, who feel uncomfortable, judged, or not part of the glamor-fit. That is a valid and important perspective. There are moments, themes and atmospheres, that are formidable in formal exercise environments. Simultaneously, there are people in those spaces who will rally for your participation, who are glad you decided to come in today, who will want to see you tomorrow because your presence will help them. There will be people who want to see you succeed. There will be people who recognize that fitness is a broad concept, that it includes happiness and fun, energy, vitality and self-acceptance. That experience is possible.

Five years after that first class with Cellini, I still remind myself of all the support that surrounds us, encouraging us to take that next step. And the next. And the next.