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What the NBA Finals teach us about life

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on June 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM

As an avid basketball fan I have been glued to the television this past week watching the finals series between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is an exciting battle between two teams evenly matched in talent but with a crucial difference: one team is experiencing this contest for the first time and the other is battle-tested and scarred from losing in the finals last year.

My interest in the game of basketball extends to the psychological factors involved in performance, competition, and manifesting excellence under extreme stress. This particular encounter is fascinating because the outcome of each game remains uncertain until the final few minutes and both teams are clearly being pushed to their limits.

In the midst of this tense and volatile struggle on the court, wisdom emerges that motivates the players but also applies to life in general. Here are some of my favorite aphorisms heard during this series:

  1. “Commit to the goal.” In order to move forward in life we must be able to envision a destination and have the determination to get there.  
  2. “One game at a time.” Even while our intention is fixed on a future goal, we must remain focused on the present moment and the task that faces us right now.  
  3. “Give it all you’ve got.” We must be courageous enough to put all of our talent, energy and emotion into the struggle, withholding nothing.  
  4. “Weather the storm.” There will always be ups and downs and in order to succeed we have to learn to stay in balance emotionally, physically and spiritually when things are not going well. 
  5. “Shrug off the bad calls.” Sometimes life is not fair and we must be able to get over inequities quickly and let go of our frustration and disappointment. Holding onto resentment from a “bad call” is a sure path to losing the game.

These are the traditional motivational quips you can hear during any sporting event. But, there is one additional message that sums up the valuable lesson of this particular contest: “Pain makes you stronger.”

It is clear that the Miami Heat, having suffered humiliating defeat in last year’s finals, have not only survived the pain of loss, but have turned it into inspiration for their current effort. The pain they have carried for the past year has stretched their boundaries, hardened their determination and burned away all superficial and frivolous agendas. They are tough in a way that only those who have been beaten and scorned can understand.

Whenever life hands us suffering and loss, we could be defeated by the pain and give up hope for the future, which is a choice many people make. But a true champion recognizes that genuine growth and breakthrough achievement often follow devastation. Losing is one of the most common pathways to ultimate success.

We too can rise up from the despair of our losses, allow ourselves to be shaped and honed by pain, and then enter the arena one more time to face our challenges. When we do respond to our suffering with this depth of courage and perseverance, we will know we are on the right path, win or lose.

Categories: Sports, Suffering, Transformation

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Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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