I’m just returning from London, where I helped launch the first 7 Mindsets Academy in the United Kingdom. Over 800 students there will be learning what it takes to dream big and follow their passions as part of their school curriculum. At the end of one seminar, a 17-year-old girl asked me for some advice on how to deal with setbacks when trying to make your dreams come true. I’ll share what I told her at the end of this week’s story, which addresses this very subject…
Kelly was born in a small town in southeast England. She enjoyed a happy childhood, with her family encouraging her to take up running at school. Showing exceptional ability, she won titles at both the junior and senior levels, and began training seriously at the age of twelve. By the age of fourteen, Kelly had declared that she wanted to be an Olympic athlete.
There was a lack of funding for British sports at the time, and as Kelly neared adulthood, she started considering a path that would provide more stability than athletics. In a move that was something of a surprise, she joined the British Army. Following her initial training, she became certified as an army truck driver. She was dedicated and determined, but something was missing in her life. She had chosen the military for its career stability, but it wasn’t fulfilling what was in her heart. After watching the Barcelona Olympics on television and seeing someone that she’d once defeated competing there, she could wait no longer. Kelly decided to start running again.
Despite having left competitive running behind at a crucial age for most developing athletes, it soon became clear that Kelly still had the talent to compete at a world-class level. Within a year, she held two major 800-meter titles in England, and was winning medals on a regular basis. But despite her success, Kelly remained in the army, sometimes returning from a major competition just in time for guard duty. In army championships, she even competed in the men's races, because none of the female competitors could keep up with her.
Kelly set new 800-meter and 1000-meter British records, but after becoming the fastest British woman in the 1500-meter as well, she experienced her first serious injury, a stress fracture. She competed in the Atlanta Olympics anyway, but only managed fourth place, missing out on a medal by a tenth of a second. After rehabilitating her injured leg, she reclaimed the 1500-meter record, and was the favorite to win at the world championships. Unfortunately, she ruptured her Achilles tendon during the race, and finished far behind the rest of the field.
Kelly battled injuries, illness, and depression during the next several years. She still raced, but struggled with consistency, and even considered giving up competitive running. After coming so far back, it was the darkest time in her life. But Kelly was nothing if not resilient, and she had come too far too quit. She began managing her depression with the help of medication, changed coaches, and worked hard to strengthen her body and regain full health.
Ten years into her competitive career, Kelly experienced a turning point. After years of injury and underperforming, her health had stabilized, and she won her tenth national title, along with several medals at various world championships. She was in the best shape of her life. Building up to the Olympics, the only question on her mind was whether it was realistic to compete in two separate events. It wasn’t until two days before the first event that she made her decision…
By putting her passion first and returning to the sport she’d envisioned herself in since childhood, Kelly Holmes gave herself permission to attain and exceed her ultimate dream. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, she became the first British athlete to win two gold medals at a single Olympics since it was last accomplished in 1920, winning both the 800-meter and the 1500-meter, and set a new British record in the process.
Kelly faced many setbacks as she pursued her dreams, and showed that how you deal with setbacks determines whether you’ll achieve your dreams. Those who view setbacks as reasons to quit inevitably fall short of their potential. But those who view setbacks as opportunities to adjust and persevere have a higher probability of living their dreams and experiencing more joy along the way.
I told the young girl with hope in her eyes, “A setback is just an opportunity for a comeback. Follow your passions and don’t ever give up.”
Until next week...