Inspiration. As I have grown older, I find that true inspiration is more difficult to come by. Or perhaps it is more appropriate to say harder to notice. I might be over generalizing my own personal experience, but I challenge you to take a moment to ask yourself, “when was the last time I was truly inspired?” We as humans–especially Americans–tend to busy ourselves and rush from one thing to the next. I am the queen of this. For why is it that we should “stop and smell the roses?” Sure, it’s to “slow down and take the time” to admire the beauty, but more importantly I say it is to be inspired. That impressionable side of us that causes us to get chills when we hear a riveting speech, have our breath taken away by a sunset, or our heart warmed when we witness some amazing act of human kindness oftentimes gets buried under the blanket of stress and everyday responsibilities.
Growing up as an athlete, I grew accustomed to being inspired. In sport it is all around you. When I was younger, I covered one of my bedroom walls with articles, Nike advertisements, and photos of strong and successful female athletes. Mia Hamm, Lisa Fernandez, Sheryl Swoopes, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain–Hell, the entire US Women’s Soccer team of the mid to late-90’s–were my roommates. I called it my Inspiration Wall. Maybe a little dorky…but it inspired me day in and day out as I would walk out on my way to school, to run errands, or to the next big game.
Yesterday, I found myself truly inspired and inspired in a way that I haven’t been in a very long time. I was inspired to have courage. I had the opportunity to attend a work luncheon and hear Paralympian Gold Medalist Alana Nichols tell her story and speak about her journey to becoming the first American woman to win Gold medals from both the Summer and Winter Games. I sat on the edge of my seat taking in every word, entranced by her attitude and tenacious drive to go after what she wanted and be successful doing it. That’s inspiration. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that her overcoming a paralyzing and literally life-changing accident to achieve what she has in the past 10 years is of course, inspiring in itself. I think what stuck with me more is her courage to take the risks she has taken, have the confidence and faith in herself as an athlete and person, and to go after what was in her heart. She wanted to win Gold starting with the 2008 Beijing Summer Games and then for giggles, she went after Gold in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
It seems to have become somewhat cliché to say, “go with what is in your heart” or “do what makes you happy.” Easy to say but hard to execute for many people when considering their situation and circumstances. This is where inspiration meets courage. To truly be inspired, you need to be courageous. It takes courage to act on that inspiration and to take those steps toward becoming someone or doing something that you have always wanted to and feels right in your heart, but perhaps haven’t had the guts (or faith) to take that leap.
After listening to Alana Nichols tells her story and feeling as though I was being directly spoken to, I couldn’t help but take a moment to self-inspect. That hour and half luncheon was the kick in the butt I needed to step off that ledge and go after a dream. I am inspired.