Could You Walk Away from the Gold?


Quick!  What is your first impulse for completing the following sentence?

Simone Biles is:

  1. A quitter who let her team down.
  2. Weak, not tough — you need pressure to make a diamond!
  3. A brave model of self-care.

In case you’ve managed to escape the news over the past week, storied U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has effectively withdrawn from Olympic competition, giving up her chances of almost guaranteed gold medals and ever greater glory.  According to a statement from USA Gymnastics, Biles “made the difficult decision to withdraw out of an abundance of caution for her mental and physical well-being.”

I’m still wrapping my head around this.  Because what Simone Biles did, my friends, was the ultimate expression of mindfulness and self-compassion.

She reached a choice point and asked, what is the best thing I can do from here? The best thing, in her words, was to protect her mind and her body, rather than “just go out there and do what the world wants [me] to do.”  So she “noped out” of the competition.  Because she realized that she could.

What was your first impulse for completing the sentence up top?  If it was option 1 or option 2, you’re hardly alone.  I’m pretty sure those were the kind of thoughts that popped into my mind first.  Of course they were!  Many of us are conditioned from the time we’re young to tough it out, keep going for the next prize, and do what others expect of us.  So we’re burdened with automatic negative thoughts that tell us we’re not measuring up or we’re not enough.

Ultimately, I arrived at option 3. I’ve just been admiring Simone Biles’s decision more and more.  I am astounded by the courage it must have taken to set those boundaries and do what’s best for her well-being.

Here’s the thing:  we all face these kinds of decisions, every day.

We feel pressure to work more hours than we want to, at an intensity we can’t sustain.  We get stuck in the “false dichotomy between personal well-being and professional excellence.”  And we resign ourselves to the status quo, assuming that we cannot possibly bring about change.

Or we overcomplicate our personal lives, allowing the endless stream of obligations and expectations and urgent demands to invade every corner of our schedule.  Until we collapse into bed at night, exhausted, wondering where the day went and vowing that tomorrow will be different — that we’ll make the time to exercise, or have lunch with a friend, or read that book gathering dust on the nightstand.

Part of creating the “Next Normal Fresh Start” is understanding when we need to walk away from the gold.  (Well, metaphorically speaking, of course.  Unless, in my case, they’re handing out medals for “last one picked in gym class.”)

Recognizing when we reach a choice point, and having the courage and conviction to “nope out.”

Being mindful enough to ask ourselves, what is the best thing I can do from here?  And then doing it.  Because we realize that we can.


By Cynthia Knapp Dlugosz

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