“Your current predicament does not limit the possibility for your productivity.” – Rev. Howard John Wesley
May 21, 1999
Everything I did that day was motivated by what I was anticipating later that evening. I was meticulous about doing all my household chores to ensure that nothing would come between me and the event. It was the finals of the UEFA Champions League, a soccer competition that featured the best clubs in Europe. And that year, my team, Manchester United, had made it to the final. To say it was our year was an understatement.
After saying goodnight to my parents and sat to watch what I called the game of the year, my excitement became palpable. But it was quickly quenched after my team came out lackluster and fell behind 1-0. As the game wore on, my confidence and hope slipped. Sadness grew as I concluded that winning was out of reach. With two minutes left in the game and the announcer already claiming that the game was all but lost, I went to bed, dejected.
The Big Surprise
The next morning, my dad woke me up with the news that made me think I was dreaming. “Your team won!” How? I left when the game was almost over, and there was no chance of winning.” My dad always listened to the news early in the morning through his bedside radio. And news of Manchester United’s victory was one of the top stories. Against all the odds, my team took the trophy! My sleep vanished as reality dawned on me.
I rushed to the store to get the daily newspaper. This was before we had YouTube. I had to read for myself. Sadness grew again when I realized I gave up on my team right on the brink of scoring two goals in two minutes. By prematurely tapping out in order to escape the emotions associated with failure, I had also surrendered the opportunity to experience the live emotions that were connected with the amazing comeback feat my team had achieved. No matter how many times I watch the replay, now on YouTube, I can never recreate the raw emotions that I had missed that night.
Don’t Give Up
Giving up is often a reasonable and logical option in the face of mounting opposition and pressure. Many of us are facing odds that we have never encountered before in our lives. These have come as a shock to the way we imagined or planned out our lives. We are living with predicaments that we never asked for. Hence the temptation to conclude that all is lost, give up and go to sleep on dreams and goals that we had drawn up with anticipation and excitement earlier this year.
Against All Odds
But before you do, giving up that is, I ask that you take a pause and spend this month at the Half-Way Point Conference here on this blog. The theme for the conference is “Against all Odds.” Just like Manchester United, you might be down, but if you are alive and there is still time on the clock of life, you are not yet done. You may have less time in front of you than behind you, and you may have made plenty of mistakes or perhaps carried a lackluster attitude, but you can still come back and win at life.
Here are the sessions for this year’s conference:
Opening Session: O.D.Ds and O.P.Ps
Session 1: Origins and Outcomes
Session 2: Scenes and Scripts
Closing Session: Living in the Middle of IT
In today’s session, the question, “Amid Overwhelming Difficulties and Disappointments (O.D.Ds) what Ordinary Progress-making Possibilities (O.P.Ps) are available to me?” will be useful in guiding us. It is a question I had to ask myself when I faced a setback while achieving a long time goal.
Early on the morning of November 2, 2019, I set out to run my first marathon. It was a goal I had dreamed of completing for quite some time. It turned out to be the most grueling yet gratifying experience. But a disappointment almost derailed it. As I neared the halfway point (13.1 miles), I looked at my run mile logging app. I had completed 11.2 miles. I soldiered on. After some time, I noticed the app was not providing me audio updates for how far I had run. Believing I had reached the halfway point, I decided to recheck the app. Much to my dismay, the app was still reading 11.2 miles! For some reason, yet unknown to me, the app had stopped logging my miles. This drained my enthusiasm and some of my energy. The fatigue that was held back by my enthusiasm hit me like a ton of bricks. Several thoughts raced through my mind. “How did this happen.” Should I stop?” Maybe this was not meant to be?” I should be in the second half of the marathon by now. ”Of all the days, this could happen…” These thoughts slowed my pace down to a slow jog.
A Mental Powerwash
As my disappointment grew, my breathing became uncontrollable, and my pace slowed even further. Fortunately, my friend Samson, who came along on a bike to cheer me on, inquired, “What’s wrong?” When I relayed what happened, he reminded me we are close to the halfway point, and I should keep going. His words power washed my mind from the thoughts that were wreaking havoc. Reinvigorated, I made up for the miles not recorded. In the second half of the run, the fatigue returned with gusto, and my legs started to feel like concrete blocks. Samson urged me onward. It was at that moment the O.D.Ds and O.P.Ps question popped in my mind. I did not know if I had it in me to finish the run, but I knew that I had it in me to complete the next mile. Then the next. And the next. These were the ordinary progress-making possibilities (O.P.Ps) that I focused on until Samson excitedly announced, “Last mile!” I girded myself up and gave what I had left to the finish.
Turning ODDs into OPPs
Though the disappointment of the miles not logged was difficult to reconcile with, what was of greater importance was the need to get my mental state back on course by creating small progress markers. Similarly, this was how Manchester United got back into the game. With each pass, throw-in, free kick, and corner kick, defensive and offensive plan, they improved their overall play. Unfortunately, I was too young to notice that the little progress made was leading to a great finish. I kept my eye on the time and the goal difference and saw no hope. What are you spending your focus on lately? Are you focused on the disappointments and setbacks you are facing and have shelved your goals or your growth plan? What thoughts are running through your mind as a result of your current difficulties or disappointments? Maybe, if I had changed my focus, I would have watched the game until the final whistle. Sometimes the small mental adjustments we make can bring the right things into focus. What are the ordinary progress-making possibilities available to you now? By changing the ODDs to OPPs, life can take on a different trajectory.
Final thought: The more time given to the O.D.Ds means less time allocated to the O.P.Ps that are available but not easily noticeable. When the odds are stacked against you, a change of focus can be the difference between giving in and going on.
Keep on keeping on!