How can I not write about the legendary Mo Farah today?
I have just witnessed one of the most incredible feats of physical, mental and emotional mastery I have ever seen.
Mo Farah winning the Olympic Gold medal in the 10,000m.
Now that statement in itself wouldn’t have shocked us all a few weeks ago before the Olympics. There was great expectation on Mo, and many thought he would walk it.
Some pundit even said that “the only way he wouldn’t win it was if he tripped and fell”.
Well, ironically Mo did the unimaginable. He fell.
He went down to the ground, and in that moment in time, it must have crossed his mind, if only for an instant, that it was all over.
It all happened so quickly when watching it at home, but for Mo, it will have all happened in what seemed like slow motion. The endless hours of training, all the expectation, hope and preparations were all hanging in the balance.
Yet it was in this instant that we saw the true measure of Mo.
What defines us is not whether we fall or not, but how well we rise after falling. And how well he rose.
Falling is inevitable in life, but what makes the difference is the choice we make in that moment when we fall. Do we stay down, accepting our fate, that we are hurt and victims of our misfortune? Or do we dig deep, and use the surge of energy that the shock created to help us rise again, this time stronger.
With Mo, I had the feeling there was no other way but up. I heard his interview afterwards, and he chose his thoughts beautifully. He focused on all the training he had done, how hard he and his team had worked to get him there, and how much it meant to him.
He didn’t let the monkeys in his mind get the better of him, even though this must have been a challenge. How many people would have used the fall as an excuse? How many would have resorted to blame, or slipped into victim mentality?
Not Mo, he knew better than that. He knew that the only way was to choose what he focused on. If he began to slip into a negative frame of mind, he would not have achieved what he did. He had to leave it behind and realign himself with his goals. By doing this, he still got back into his stride.
Nonetheless, winning the race was an incredible feat, and shows just how emotionally resilient he is.
One of my favourite authors, and TED speakers, Brene Brown knows all about emotional resilience and getting back up after a fall. She wrote a book called “Rising Strong” (well worth a read, after The Gift of Imperfection and Daring Greatly), which encourages us to take our failures, and let them define us, not defeat us.
An acclaimed social scientist, her work is based on decades of research. She says: “If we are brave often enough, we will fall. This is the physics of vulnerability”.
According to Brene, the only way to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life is to go in “whole-heartedly”, and to make yourself vulnerable, and to accept that you will fall from time to time. This is what gives us our strength, but it is also the nature of life. We fall, but we rise again. We must.
If there is anything we can learn from Mo Farah, it is that a fall does not mean the end. In fact, a fall teaches us how to get back up again.
And, as long as we keep a check on our thoughts and get back up, as Mo did, we can remind ourselves that the one who has fallen and gotten back up is always stronger than the one who didn’t fall at all.