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How Matt Damon Helped Me Learn How to Become Fearless

Matt-Damon

All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage and great things will happen.
– Benjamin Mee, author of We Bought a Zoo

Running is my new passion. The people close to me might say that it’s an obsession. It’s hard to believe that all my life I had the preconception that I could not be a runner. I have always loved sports, but throughout my life I never found one that I was able to do, or should I say I never found something that I was good at. I always loved watching the Olympics and dreamed about becoming an athlete. Why? I don’t know.

I never stuck long enough with any sport to determine if I was good or not. When I was a child, I dabbled in gymnastics, volleyball, track and field, and swimming. I think I never persevered in any of these sports because I was afraid of pain.  I was afraid of it being too much work.  I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough.

In school, I always envied the kids who played team sports. I used to watch their games and thought they were super cool. I never tried hard enough to be part of any team, because I didn’t believe that I was good enough.

During the next 15 years of my life, I had a few attempts to get fit. I joined gyms and got bored. I let excuses get in my way and wasn’t consistent with exercising. I went to college, got a profession, got married and had two kids. After having kids, I gained weight and struggled to lose the pregnancy pounds.

A couple of years ago, I watched the movie We Bought a Zoo.  After losing his wife, Benjamin Mee (played by Matt Damon) attempts to start his life over and purchases a big house with a zoo. In the movie, Benjamin is asked why he’s taking on such a huge challenge.

His reply is simple: “Why not?”

Right then, I decided that I would make that year my “why not” year.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later, a friend asked me if I wanted to join her in a triathlon. I had never competed in a triathlon. Heck, I hadn’t even run a 5K race in my life. But I thought about it for a couple of seconds and answered “why not”!

Training for a triathlon was a self-discovery journey. I had to overcome physical and emotional challenges. It was hard for my body to get used to exercising 6 days a week. Feeling sore and tired was no fun. I used to ask myself, ‘when is this going to start feeling easy?’

I focused on one day at a time. Frequently I struggled with feeling that I wasn’t progressing as fast as I wanted to. I started comparing myself with fit people in the gym and doubting myself.  I had frustrating days when my mommy duties interfered with training. I had to accept that my training plan was a guide, and I had to be flexible to keep motivated.

I used a quote from Tony Robbins to keep me motivated when things got tough. I’d keep repeating to myself “All I need is within me now”!

A big fear that I had to face was swimming in a cold, dark lake. It was hard to build up endurance to swim laps, but the fear of a lake swim was like having to face an evil villain that scares you.

I started with baby steps in my swimming, but wasn’t able to practice much due to the cold water temperatures in spring. I thought of the worst-case scenario and then found out that there would be kayakers to help struggling swimmers in the race. Phew! That gave me a little peace of mind.

On race day, I struggled with my swimming and almost had to drop out of the race because I got extremely dizzy due to the freezing water. My lovely hubby came to my rescue when I came out of the lake and collapsed on the ground. He helped me pull through it and I was able to finish the race.

My life changed that day. And I’ve never looked back.

When you feel like saying no to something that seems too scary or too difficult or too risky, just ask yourself first, “why not”?

Image: loud murmuring

Why Is My Child Different?

why-is-my-child-different

Why is my child different? I have been asking this question ever since he was born. I think that as a new parent, you are always looking around and trying to find traits that show how your child is different from others. You want to find out why he is so special. Using the word different rather than special could have a negative implication in our society. I personally think, however, that we should actually see our differences as a positive thing.

My son has always been a very happy, spontaneous and highly enthusiastic boy. Sometimes, his intensity will get to my husband and me and drive us just a little crazy. Through the years, his teachers have told us that he is a very smart and gifted child. My husband and I have always felt that he is a fast learner and that he is always looking to learn from every experience he goes through. In the last two school years, we have been also hearing that he behaves differently from all the other students in his classroom.

What is wrong with being different?

The world around us tries to make us feel bad about our children when they are identified as different. I think every child is special and as result every child is different. Today I was watching TV and there was this CNN report with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He was interviewing a father and son about their relationship. The father recently wrote a book about his relationship with his son. Both the father and the son suffer from Asperger’s syndrome. They were both talking about how they felt different from others since an early age.

Listening to this got me thinking about my own childhood. It got me thinking about how when I was child I also felt different from others. I have never suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but I think that I have one trait of the condition. I always saw myself as different.

Since I started Kindergarten, I always felt that I had a desire in me to be creative and show other people my talents. When I was five years old, I was well known in my school for being a poet and a performer. Looking back in my life, I don’t know what happened to that creative and artistic little girl. I used to feel so special and proud of myself at that age, but that sense of fulfillment didn’t grow along with me.

I know now that, looking at my life, I was rarely encouraged to explore and use my creativity. Nor to embrace the things that make me different. Today, as a parent, I look at my children and feel like I want to embrace their differences and get them to grow up with a positive sense of whom they are. I want to focus on their strengths and help them grow. I want them to see that creativity and thinking differently from others is an asset and a gift that they should use in life. I want to raise them to be creative.

Today, my eldest son is seven years old and I have decided to answer my own question. I want to rephrase my question and ask how is my child different? He is the most creative, positive, talented, caring, polite, sincere, kind, smart, generous, bright, friendly, affectionate and athletic boy that I know.

This question and answer come from the heart. That is where there are no wrong answers.

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