Dream, and you shall achieve.
A few weeks ago a message released by a primary school in Britain evoked a significant reaction on my social media. A “dress as your future career” day was looming on the horizon, but school administrators were keen to encourage pupils to attend dressed as realistic career options. Pursuance of sporting talent fell firmly under the unrealistic column. Naturally, as a professional sportswoman this sparked some strong emotions for me personally. I was upset at the prospect of these children being discouraged from aiming high in life, angry that the school staff seemed to view their role as mediators of passion and belief, and immensely disappointed that parents would be receiving this message in their child’s school bag. Has our society really reached such a point that children must conform to the mundane status quo, and dream of holding down a safe 9-5 office job?
In my personal experience, becoming a professional sportswoman was not a lifelong childhood dream. I honestly cannot remember what I dreamt of being when I grew up, but I can safely say that at no point was I ever encouraged to lower my expectations, and aim for something more achievable. I have always been highly ambitious and competitive, so when given the opportunity to see how far I could go with my athletics I seized it. This decision was not met with support from all. I vividly remember a friends parents scoffing at me, and informing my Mum that “nobody makes a career out of running”. Thankfully, my Mum, and all of my family, do not share this fear for trying something out of the ordinary, and are nothing but supportive of my endeavours. The major issue I take with naysayers is that I genuinely struggle to think any career path that results in definite success. There is a risk element in every profession, so where is the harm in trying to succeed in the area which you are most passionate?
At university a favourite lecturer of mine used career path examples as a means of teaching us about the topic of risk. I should mention at this point that I my undergraduate degree is in accounting and finance, ergo the dependable, low risk career option of an accountant was very popular in the room! However, the alternative high risk job that was described, was predictably that of a professional sportsperson. All the flaws and foibles that an athlete faces were picked apart, with the only upside mentioned being the earnings potential (which I can tell you was grossly overinflated!). At that time I was very much a student-athlete, in no way was I professional, but the lecture got me thinking. There are so many sought after characteristics that athletes demonstrate in abundance: dedication, perseverance, the ability to deal with setbacks, the list goes on. Taken in isolation these attributes are also applicable to many high-achieving professions, such as medicine, law, architecture, or engineering. Going back to my lecturer, it was not their intention to slate the sports industry, they are in fact very supportive of my achievements to date, it was merely a simplified example for learning. The message I took away was that risk is an inherent part of life, but that individuals appetites to risk vary greatly. Characteristics like those listed above are highly sought after. No-one can predict how someone’s future life will pan out, and children should be fully supported to learn about themselves as they grow, develop, and begin their journey through life.
As stated above, nobody possesses a crystal ball to look into the future, and obviously everybody does not grow up to become the next Mo Farah, or Harry Kane. In most cases childhood dreams like athletic stardom dwindle over time, and sights are set on new horizons. This is natural, and results in the beautiful, diverse world that we live in. The importance is not what our youth dream to be when they grow up, but their learning of how to achieve such goals; the behaviour and mindset that they develop as a result, and its application throughout life.
Life really is just one huge opportunity for adventure! I strongly believe that everyone has the right to dream, and act upon it. Dreams do not have to be big, or hugely significant, but they must have meaning to the individual. A focus on personal growth, and a simple aim of bettering ourselves results in a highly rewarding life for yourself, and others. I am sure the tweet that initiated this was completely well-intentioned, and this is in no way an attack, just a sharing of my resultant thoughts. Whatever your age, be true to yourself, by all means respect your limitations, but work on your weaknesses, and pursue your dreams.