12 Tips on Embracing Adventure From Paralympic Athlete Bonnie St. John
By bonniestjohn on January 28, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.
Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, Bonnie St. John became the first African-American ever to win Olympic medals in ski racing at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. In recognition of this historic achievement, Bonnie was honored at the White House by President George W. Bush as part of the 2007 celebration of Black History Month.
In addition to her success as a Paralympic athlete, Bonnie is the author of five books, a highly sought after keynote speaker, a television and radio personality, a business owner, and the single mother of a teenage daughter. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and served in the White House during the Clinton administration.
NBC Nightly News called Bonnie, "One of the five most inspiring women in America." She has been featured extensively in both national and international media including: The TODAY Show, CNN, CBS Morning News, NBC News, and The New York Times, as well as People, O, and Essence magazines, to name just a few.
BANISH THE EXCUSES. Make a list of the reasons you don’t have more adventure in your life and try this exercise I call “Reversi.” For each reason you put down, turn it backwards and rewrite it. For example, if one reason is: "I don’t have time; I am too busy for adventure;" write down: "I have plenty of time for adventure." It sounds a bit silly, but just the effort and action of writing such a result jogs your brain into thinking a different way. I have seen powerful results with this Reversi method. Try it and see for yourself!
VISUALIZE. Take time each day to do something adventurous on your own mental playground! Put up posters of whatever you dream about. Find glorious images of foreign countries you want to visit, hang gliding high above the mountains, or anything else you can dream of as a great adventure. Watch movies that include your fantasy. The more you stimulate your imagination, the easier it is to actually see a way to make your adventure come true.
FLEX YOUR CONFIDENCE MUSCLE. Confidence has always been one of the key ingredients that got me from being a one-legged, economically challenged, black kid in San Diego (where there isn’t any snow – ever!) to winning Olympic medals as a ski racer. But confidence is like a muscle: you have to consistently exercise it to make it work at its most potent level of strength. Try, wherever you can, to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you have trepidation about speaking in public, join Toastmasters. If you are nervous about romantic relationships, try speed dating. Pretty soon you’ll see the flab fall away and a new, ripped confidence muscle will appear.
CHOOSE TO BE POSITIVE. Good and bad things happen to everyone; what matters is how you respond to them. By choosing to be positive -- even when things don’t go your way -- you can build a habit of attitude that is more compatible with adventure. If you can’t deal well with adversity, it’s very difficult to embrace adventure. I can tell you, from my experience, that an adventurous life includes a few more ups and downs than sitting on the couch watching TV. Oh, and never forget: a good sense of humor is mandatory!
BE HELPABLE. No one said you have to be the Lone Ranger to be adventurous! When stepping out into unfamiliar territory, don’t be afraid to rally a few support folks around yourself to help get the ball rolling. Find people who can make it easier for you, give you good advice, and smooth your way. Perhaps you can even find an expert in your particular adventure that can save you all sorts of time, effort, and maybe even save you money! Whenever someone asks me about beginning to ski, I always tell them to take at least one lesson. Connect to people who know how to be adventurous in the ways you want to be, and it will be contagious.
BEAT THE JOY STEALERS. There are always people around who will try to tell you that your adventure will never happen. Don’t listen! You are in charge of your destiny. You are in charge of your adventure. If I had listened to naysayers, I would never have tried skiing, never gotten to Harvard or Oxford, never worked in the White House, etc. If somebody tells you, “You can’t,” you tell them, “Just watch me!”
GET GOING. There is an old Chinese Proverb that says: Be not afraid of moving slowly; be afraid of standing still. You can actually get started on your exciting new journey with slow, baby steps at first; I always did! There are so many easy ways to start: research your options, begin saving the money you need, maybe just find people to talk with about your adventure. When I began to write my first book, I joined a writer’s group, bought books on how to write, and took a class with my mother. The more prep work you do, the more likely you are to succeed.
USE YOUR “TO DO” LIST. Just because your adventure isn’t about your job or your household chores, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t go on your list of important things to do. Put small tasks associated with your next adventure on your calendar as appointments with yourself. Block off time on your schedule to daydream a little each day about how it will feel to travel, or take flying lessons, or whatever it is you dare to dream. And DREAM BIG!
BE RESILIENT: FALL DOWN, GET UP. Probably the most important tip of all is: when you get knocked down along the journey to a new you, GET UP! This has been my motto since an experience I had during the 1984 Paralympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Check out the story as it appeared on a Starbucks cup!
TAKE A RISK. I have noticed that some people risk too much while others risk too little. In my book, Live Your Joy, I wrote about rules for risk taking. For me, it’s like having a portfolio of investments, but you are investing your time instead of your money. You don’t put your hard-earned savings 100% in high-risk or 100% in low-risk opportunities. So, don’t do that with your time, either. Diversify your hopes and dreams. If something is a high-risk goal -- a wild idea -- only put in smaller amounts of time toward that goal until you see that the odds of success getting better. If a crazy plan doesn’t start to look more promising after a while, cut it loose and move on to something more promising. Create a wide ranging basket of options for adventure in your life, so you don’t have to play for all or nothing every time.
MAKE IT YOURS. Okay, maybe this tip is even more important than the one about falling down and getting up: Find a form of adventure that really moves, excites, and inspires you. Too often we get stuck pursuing the dreams we think we should, rather than the paths we really want to follow. Maybe we do something that our parents wanted, or kill ourselves to save for a vacation that just looks good in the advertisement. At the end of the day, you have to pay attention to the little voice inside you that says, "this is what blows my dress up, floats my boat, or scores my goal!" No one can tell you what that is but you.
HAVE FUN. This tip is the grand finale. Have fun. Simple, no? You’d be surprised by how many people get derailed by forgetting this. When you catch yourself being too serious about everything, lighten up. Laugh a lot. Watch a funny movie, hang out with funny people, go dancing, whatever it takes. Things always look better in the morning. If you truly are doing tip number 11 -- targeting your personal passion -- having fun comes much more naturally. Be adventurous … and enjoy life!
Find out more about Bonnie at www.bonniestjohn.com and take advantage of the many free resources to help you Live Your Joy!
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