Watching Liverpool beat Tottenham last week in the Champions League Final, I was struck by how much we can allow winning to dominate our emotions. Once the final whistle had blown, the faces of the players (and supporters) on each team told very different stories. On the one side, happy smiles and triumphant fists in the air while, on the other, there were tears of despair and crushed hopes. And yet, Spurs have undeniably had a great season and achieved success beyond their dreams. But, sadly, what the players and the fans will remember will not be the long and successful path to the final (winning six matches in a row to get there) but the result of that one match.
Here at school we can suffer in the same way. It is important to recognise the progress made, the achievements along the way or the huge pleasure to be had from participating in all manner of events. Instead, our young people can fall into the trap of comparing their own achievements with the achievements of others, consequently diminishing their own pleasure and satisfaction.
This morning in assembly I shared with the school the sum total of my lifetime’s trophy cabinet; one small trophy gained from winning a sailing race 15 years ago and an even smaller trophy won at prep school for coming second in the under 12 shot put on sports day. Slim pickings by any measure. I also confided that Mrs Gilmour has won the same number of trophies in the last two weeks alone competing in two mountain bike races. So I told the pupils that I choose not to feel inadequate or even less successful because of this. Instead I told them that I take great pride in a lifetime of participation...over the years I have raced on bikes, in boats and on foot and only once have I stood on the metaphorical podium. Yet, when I look at the variety of medals that I have been given on crossing the line at so many races I am immensely proud that I have taken part in so many great events, have so many incredible memories and crossed the finish line every time.
So this morning I encouraged the pupils to resist comparing their achievements against the achievements of others. I suggested that it is a good thing to enjoy victory but that the quiet satisfaction that can be gained from participation and a job well done can be just as sweet.
I’m putting all this to the test this weekend when I face my greatest challenge yet. I will be running the Cateran Yomp, a 54 mile challenge (which is 20 miles further than I have ever run before). Beside me will be my friend Chris Moon. Chris lost part of an arm and part of a leg while clearing mines in Mozambique. He has chosen to remain one of life's participants and lives by the mantra that we can achieve anything in life if we just keep on keeping on. I hope he’s right!
John F Gilmour