From the earliest time I can remember, I have loved setting goals for myself. You’ve heard people say that they used to walk a mile to school, in the snow, uphill both ways? Well, in high school, I set a goal to earn a full scholarship for track and field. I remember waking up hours before school began so that I could run the mile to school, in the sun, rain and snow… only to run uphill and downhill and uphill again on the stadium bleachers with the hope that the additional training would align with my goal.
But many times, regardless of how hard I tried, my goals have been thrown off course. I never expected to get hit by a 1600-pound bobsled when I was first in the world in the sport of skeleton or to finish a very disappointing fourth place in my Olympic debut. I NEVER expected to miscarry our little girl at 18 weeks pregnant, and then a boy at 16 weeks or another girl at 17 weeks without the doctors understanding why.
Trials can stop us in our tracks. They can literally take our breath away. When this happens, what do we do? How do we move forward? Throughout these trials my husband Janson and I have often thought, “This chapter in our life has ended, so how do we turn the page?”
When I showed up to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I knew it was the pinnacle, the moment of moments, and the finale to 15 years of hard work and constant drive towards this Olympic dream. As I crossed that finish line, jumped into the stands, embraced my family, and had the medal draped around my neck, it was an indescribable moment. I was leaving my legacy. I had given it my all and it had proven to be enough. But was that it? Was that moment that had passed the legacy of my entire life? What was next?
My husband and I discovered we never wanted to stop developing the talents that God has blessed us with no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they might seem.
We had to be willing to push our fears aside and we had to be willing to try. We had to continue to learn and to have hope for and faith in another great chapter in our lives ahead. With an appreciation for the experiences behind us, we sat down together and looked forward to everything that we had always wanted to learn, do, see, earn, have or become in this life’s journey. Together, we decided to create the “Ultimate Bucket List.”
Following the Olympics and the loss of another pregnancy, I became pregnant with twins. We continued to add to our list: Janson wanted to earn a master’s degree in business administration, and I wanted to learn how to speak Spanish. So, at 33 weeks pregnant with twins, we sold our house and moved to Costa Rica for a master’s degree program. It definitely was not convenient by any means, but it was definitely worth it. I know I will never speak as well as some, but God doesn’t expect us to be like someone else or to compare ourselves with them. He expects us to have faith in Him and he expects us to try.
After a couple years away, we moved back to the United States with a lengthened bucket list which continues to grow. 30 days at a time, Janson and I have decided to dedicate an average of 10 minutes each day to becoming who we want to become, including turning to God for guidance on what our goals should be.
The following 30 days, we set new goals for ourselves. I learned how to juggle and play the Kalimba. Recently, Janson and I set goals from our Ultimate Bucket List to learn 20 knots and their uses, as well as to learn 20 constellations and their mythology. I also learned how to beatbox!
Once we realize that this life is never meant to compare ourselves with others but to connect with them, our fears of perfection and judgement will fade. Our legacy is left by sharing our talents, skills and what we have learned with others and by helping others to become the best version of themselves possible. Life isn’t meant to be endured; it’s meant to be lived!
If we want to move forward, we must LOOK forward.
If I could leave a challenge it would be to pray for guidance and think about who you want to become. What do you want to learn, read, do or see? Who does God want you to grow to be? Create your Ultimate Bucket List. Break your goals down to a 30-90-day goal and hold yourself accountable each and every day. “Doubt not; fear not.” We don’t have to be an Olympian, the best in the world, or even great at a specific talent to become who God needs us to become…we just have to be willing to push our fears aside, have a little faith and try.
Noelle spoke about her experience with setting goals for a live event called Hope Works. Find more inspirational stories from Hope Works here.