The last couple of weeks has been a master class in showcasing and adoring utter obsession. Obviously, I’m talking about the Olympics.
In interview after interview, each athlete in turn talks about the dedication it has taken to get them there. Four years of training, early starts and fast-food-free diets.
The results are phenomenal.
The competition makes for almost unrivaled television.
And with it, obsession is given its ultimate approval and expression.
I’ve fallen in love with track cycling, been amazed at hockey players throwing their bodies on the line and in awe of Mo Farah’s splits.
(Although I’m still not convinced by dressage).
I want get out there and speed round as part of a peloton, I fancy trying to pike (but perhaps not from 10m) and maybe if I find a niche enough sport I could have a shot in four years time…
But that’s exactly the problem.
I’m like a magpie.
I see something new and shiny and I want it.
I want an illustrious career, prayer life, to excel in sport, coaching, mentoring, volunteering, speaking, followers, half marathon times, wizzing round a velodrome, the list grows longer and longer with each waking day…
Unfortunately there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week or years during which my body will be able to complete at a reasonable level at more than a couple of sports.
Behind the obsession is a decision.
A decision I haven’t made on any serious level yet.
A decision to commit.
Not just to commit, but commit to one thing. And one thing only.
One thing that trumps everything else.
For Mo Farah it has met spending half his life away from his young family, running 120 miles a week, at high altitude, in temperatures that would cause a meltdown across Britian.
The appeal lessens.
But the nagging ‘what-if’ remains. But like a lot of my 20-something-peers, commitment is a dirty word, foreign to my tongue. We want to be successful in everything, all the time. So we dabble with this, flirt with that. Never going all in for one thing. The grass is greener…
And (I think) that’s why we fall short.
In this world, despite the adverts telling us otherwise, we can’t have it all. And a deeper question arises, what - if anything - is actually worth being obsessed about?
Faith aside, I remain firmly a jack-of-all-trades. I haven’t found my raison d’être. Perhaps I should be less scared of reducing my options, I’ll never have time to do anything anyway. Perhaps I need to decide to reject obsession. Decide that I’m ok not being a world beater and accept something closer to mediocrity (as painful as that is to type).
If we reject obsessive commitment, then I think there is another dirty C word we need to embrace, ‘contentment’.
Paul, the most published author of all time, had some advice, ‘for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’.
If I can be content without success, glory or perfection. Then life becomes a lot simpler and richer:
I can celebrate others’ successes without needing to emulate or begrudge them.
I can find more joy in second than being first.
I can be comfortable with less.
I can fail.
I hated writing those last few sentences.
But actually, wouldn’t it be so brilliantly liberating. Because most of all I’ll be free to relax and stop berating myself for not constantly being a better me.