This past summer, we heard an interesting talk from Colin O’Brady, an endurance athlete. After graduating from college and before starting his career, he bought a backpack and set out to explore the world.
In 2008, while in Thailand, O’Brady suffered a tragic accident while doing a fire jump rope challenge. He was severely burned, with injuries that covered nearly 25 percent of his body, primarily damaging his legs and feet. Doctors warned him that he might never walk normally again.
After airlifting and treatment, O’Brady was discharged, but confined to either a wheelchair or bed. His mom challenged him to get out of the wheelchair on Day 1 post-hospital discharge, and to then walk five steps by the end of the first week. He barely did that by Week 2. But with the persistent and positive encouragement of his mother, O’Brady set himself a seemingly impossible goal: to complete his first triathlon.
A mere 18 months after his accident, O’Brady placed first overall at the Chicago Triathlon. After winning his first race, sponsors took note and signed on to support his future. O’Brady then attempted to complete a prestigious mountaineering challenge, The Explorers Grand Slam, something fewer than 50 people have ever completed, and only four in under a year. He did it in 139 days.
With grit and perseverance, O’Brady did something no person had ever done. On December 26, 2018, he crossed the land mass of Antarctica solo and unsupported.
If he can hit those goals after an injury like the one he sustained, certainly you and I can try for our big dreams.
But how did O’Brady do it? He took push, enthusiasm and determination—what we like to call “PEDs”—to heart. This strategy can help you achieve any health-focused goal, whether it’s losing 20 pounds or training for a marathon.
Having a buddy (O’Brady’s mom, then his fiancée, Jenna, for example) or team to keep you going when your drive fades provides the best incentive to keep exercising and to stay healthy enough to have the energy to reach your big goal.
If your sport or activity no longer thrills you (be it table tennis, hiking or swimming), studies show you won’t have the motivation you need to meet your goals. Try various activities—or meal plans, if you’re dieting—and rediscover your old enthusiasm and the fun you felt for hitting your goals.
To reinforce determination, write down your workout schedule, post it and track your progress. Review and revise your plan if needed, and reward yourself (say with a day at the beach or a cup of gelato) when you meet a goal, such as lowering your blood pressure by 10 points or hitting your weight target 31 days in a row.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by bbernard / Shutterstock