When David first made it to the Olympics in 2008, he did all he could to savor the moment before performing his final 10-meter platform dive. After all, that moment was the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment for hundreds of athletes, like himself, who had sweated, pushed, lifted, trained, sacrificed, and willed their way to the Olympics. If you were to ask David about his performance, he would tell you he failed miserably because he didn’t obtain the medal he desperately wanted.
For David, the Olympics were his vehicle of choice to obtain riches, fame, and success, and that feeling only accelerated over time. Once he made the Olympic team, that was no longer enough; he wanted to win a medal. Eventually, winning a medal wasn’t enough; he wanted to win gold. Creating new goals to work toward is important, but in David’s case, he pursued the dream of Olympic glory not for a noble purpose but because of what he thought it could deliver. The harder he pushed himself to reach goals, the more miserable life became.
As time went on, David got introduced to Purdue University’s coach Adam Soldati and his wife Kimiko, a former Olympic diver. When they invited David to their house, he assumed they would tell him his feeling of hopelessness and despair was normal, that every Olympic athlete went through similar struggles. Instead, they explained to him his feelings were a result of misplaced hope. His pursuit of joy, satisfaction and wholeness was great, but he was looking for those things in the wrong places.
By the time David made the 2012 Olympic team, his desires, thoughts and attitude were different. He no longer viewed the games as a platform for himself – as a vehicle to obtain all he wanted in the world. You could say his outlook was transformed and redeemed. The Olympics were an opportunity to display God’s love to people who might be lost and broken, just like he had been. That mindset was one he promised to carry with him heading into Rio for the 2016 Olympics and it paid off. Even though he did not win the sought-after gold medal, he now recognizes his identity is not wrapped up in his success as a diver. Instead, his value and worth rests in something greater than gold – his faith.
As we reflect on goals we hope to achieve in our lifetime, may we think of David’s story and remember wise words of Henry David Thoreau, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”