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Lessons from “Cool Runnings”

By Heather Oman

You know the story. Some runners from Jamaica decide to enter as a bobsled team for the Olympics. Their coach is John Candy, himself a disgraced Olympian, and through a series of mishaps, slapstick adventures, and silly antics, they find themselves with a broken bobsled at the end of race. But they still finish it. Tears, joy, laughter, it’s better than Cats.

There is one moment, however, from this movie that has always stayed with me. John Candy says to one of the runners something along these lines (and I paraphrase), “If you’re not enough without the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.”

I’ve always wondered about that, what it feels like to win a gold medal. And what does it feel like AFTER you’ve won the gold medal?

I didn’t win a gold medal recently, but I did run a half marathon last Saturday. It was my first half marathon, and I really really wanted to do it. I was driven to do it like I’d never been driven to anything else. I did it because I felt like I had something to prove about my body. Not really to anybody else (although my husband admits he likes my runner’s legs), but to myself, that my body still has some juice left in it, and that I can still ask things of it, and that it will still deliver.

It did deliver. I finished the race. I didn’t exactly do it in record time, but I sprinted the last mile and a half, and my husband tells me I was grinning as I crossed the finish line. I felt great.

But when I got home, the laundry was still waiting. My children still needed to be fed. My parents, who had stayed with my family as DH and I ran our race, were lovely and helpful and let us take naps, but then they left. And life shifted back to normal. Not a thing had changed. I was still the same person with the same problems as before. I just had sore knees and better defined calves.

Then John Candy’s face floated to my mind, and I heard him tell his Jamaican bobsledder, “If you’re not enough without the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.”

Let me also just say, quickly, that was the first, and hopefully LAST time an image of John Candy has come to my mind unbidden.

It made me wonder about the goals I set in my life. I’m glad I set my goal to run a half marathon, and I will always have that, even when my calves ( as is inevitably the case) lose their new-found definition. But perhaps there are other goals I should be setting, ones that WILL change my life, ones that will make me enough without the medal.

What kind of goals have you met in your life, and how have they changed you? Do you sometimes feel a let down after a goal has been accomplished? What kind of goals can have an impact on our fundamental nature?

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

8 thoughts on “Lessons from “Cool Runnings””

  1. The biggest "goal" I can think of that was life-changing was getting married in the temple.

    It is interesting the things that most changed me have been things I have done over time. I have volunteered for 1.5 years for the San Diego Sexual Assault Response Team, I think that has made me more compassionate. Changing careers changed my perception.

    I ran a half marathon once with my dad. And honestly haven't ran since. It turned me against it — so good job for you!

  2. That was always the hardest thing for me when I was running races. I'd finish the race, and feel this overwhelming, "well, what am I supposed to do now? That was it?"

    I've met all sorts of goals in my life, I'm sure. Some of them are probably goals like "not have laundry in the laundry room for five minutes", but even a couple of the bigger ones have been met. Some are more satisfying than others, for sure! My marriage hasn't been a disappointed goal in any way, financial goals feel a little hollow in victory.

    I've pretty much stopped setting goals in the hopes that lowered expectations will bring less stress. Let's hope it works and doesn't turn me into a sloth.

  3. I remember the first time I had an article published in a magazine. I was so excited! But it didn't change me. I was the same old girl without any real boost of self confidence.

    Being ENOUGH– just being– is part of realizing our divine worth. So I find that spiritual goals– scripture reading, prayer, meaningful mothering etc.– are the acts that truly change me.

  4. Sometimes I push for goals that are big and impressive when what really makes the difference in my life are the ordinary and "boring" everyday enduring goals. Reading scriptures daily. Taking time for each of my children daily. Speaking kindly to my husband, every day. The accumulation of these types of goals results in a lifetime of accomplishment and learning. Like eating an elephant, a bite at a time.

    Our lives are so intertwined with others, our experiences impact them, their experiences impact us. Who can really measure the long term good done by a single goal accomplished? There are times I just throw up my hands and admit that I have to wait until the end of the race, the race of life, to fully assess my accomplishments.

  5. Last year and the first few months of this year, I lost 95 pounds. It's funny because I thought I would get to this point of loving my physical self and I couldn't wait to be 'done' but then I got there… and… nothin. It was over. My stomach wasn't rock hard, my body still wasn't perfect, and everyone said good job, but I really felt the same.

    In the end, I think I did do something incredible and I'm proud of myself, but I was hoping that this goal would make me feel complete or better or something, but I was just the same on the inside. I thought, I guess, that my goal would MAKE me enough. It really only made me 95 lbs. lighter. Which is a GOOD thing, but not everything.

    What I did learn from accomplishing a major goal is that I'm tougher and stronger than I give myself credit for. And for a while that motivated me to make other big goals, but the further I get from when I hit my weight loss accomplishment, the less I feel tough and strong… So, all this rambling = yes, I get what you are saying! 100%.

  6. Hm. Interesting post. Mulling over this one….

    I think the day-to-day is what has really changed me the most. That and enduring health problems for many years. Not giving up has been my goal for a lot of those years, and in not giving up, I have found out a lot about myself and about God.

    And also, a lot of the goals that changed me were more like things that God brought into my life…my mission (hadn't planned on one), my education (never set out to get a graduate degree until after a mission I hadn't planned on…cuz, you know, I was going to be married by then), other experiences before marriage (career, living 2000 miles away from my family, etc), then the opportunity to get married and have kids. They have shaped me so much, but they were more like blessings brought into my life than goals that I necessarily tackled all myself, if that makes sense.


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