A s many of you know, last week we celebrated International Women’s Day! As a female athlete and entrepreneur, I always look forward to seeing the incredible, powerful, smart women that are highlighted and showcased every year on this day. It really makes me reflect on the women in my life who I have looked up to, and who have motivated me to chase my dreams.
This year, I started reflecting on what kind of impact I’m making on those around me. How can we empower people to reach new heights? The answer isn’t as complex as you might think… We simply need to show them what’s possible.
By showing young leaders what they’re able to accomplish, it enables them to dream bigger and to be ambitious.
But, if we want to show the next generation (especially young women) what is possible, then we have to pay attention to representation. We need to strive for a diversified workplace with representation of different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, abilities… the list goes on. Young people need to see people who they identify with succeeding in order to picture their own successes and dreams coming true.
When you can see yourself in someone else, suddenly you’re able to see a whole new world of possibilities.
I CAN DO THAT TOO
Years ago, I watched one of my fellow teammates become an Olympian. This was one of the first moments I can remember when I really thought “Okay… I can do that too!”. Seeing someone that I related to achieve something so great showed me that it wasn’t crazy to aim big. In that moment, the outlandish goal I had suddenly became real and felt within reach. If she was able to chase her dreams, and achieved them… then so could I.
I read a book recently called Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success by Michael Ungar. In this book, he tells a story about a social worker who was assigned to work with teenage girls in a youth shelter to help keep them in school. She tried to engage them in activities to further their life goals and to see their potential, asking them to imagine their future and to draw what they saw. The girls didn’t take the activity seriously and couldn’t come up with anything concrete.
She shared that “it occurred to me that they had no pictures in their heads for what was possible… I needed to get them up the ladder first so they could see a landscape of possibilities. I had started inside their heads. I should have begun by opening up possibilities around them and letting them decide which to choose”.
Imagination and the willingness to picture what is possible can be so powerful in understanding your potential. Creating a foundation of thinking about what’s been done before (possibility) + what you’re able to do (imagination) can help young people to understand their potential and that it’s okay to chase their dreams, even if there will be challenges along the way.
SHOW THE NEXT GENERATION WHAT’S POSSIBLE
So, what can you and I do to show the next generation what is possible?
Think about the younger version of you. Who did you look up to, and why? Was it someone that looked like you? Someone you admired? What about their journey motivated you to start your own? Think about the people you looked up to, and understand how you can be that person for the next generation.
Choose, every day, to go after your dream. By not being afraid of failure, you’re showing the future generation that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Even if you don’t succeed, the pursuit alone might inspire someone. Even if you don’t succeed, the strength, resilience, determination and passion you showcase during those failures could be enough to spark someone else’s journey to chase their dreams.
I encourage you all to celebrate those that came before you and inspired you to pursue your dreams, and to continue that legacy by inspiring other young people to do the same. Let’s consistently show up and show them what’s possible!