Quite simply, we’ve all been put through the ringer in these past couple of years. If we really think about it, life has turned upside down. And our lives overall are pretty great. We are one of the approximately 40% of the world’s population who has indoor plumbing, we are likely one of the 45% of the world’s population that makes more than 10,000 per year, and if you’re reading this on the internet, you’re one of the 59% of people worldwide that have access to the internet. We just need better tools for overcoming adversity.

Our team has had the pleasure of getting to know Butch Reynolds, Olympian and World Record holder in Track and Field. If you’re not familiar with Butch’s journey, it’s one of overcoming great adversity, resilience, and rising above. ESPN is currently filming a 30 for 30 documentary about him and his journey. Butch made his most significant mark in 1988 in Zurich, where he ran 43.29, shattering the 43.86 world record previously set by Hall of Famer Lee Evans during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. He brought home the gold medal in the 4×400 relay and individual silver in the 400m at the Seoul games. In addition to fast times, he owns an impressive array of championship medals, including the 1993 World Indoor title; 1988 Olympic 400m silver and 4x400m gold; three World Outdoor 4x400m gold medals (1987, ‘93, ‘95); two World Outdoor 400m silvers (‘93, ‘95) and the 1987 World Outdoor 400m bronze medal. He was quite literally on top of the world.

After the Seoul games, Butch was falsely accused of drug use and was banned from competition by the IAAF for two years. Butch was innocent, the laboratory switched the samples, and after several court cases, including two trips to the US Supreme Court, it was proven time and time again that Butch was innocent. He was awarded a settlement of $27 million, none of which was paid to him. After that heartbreaking struggle, Butch came back to win race after race and earned another world record, which still stands to this day, in the 4×400 relay.


Why do we tell you Butch’s story? Because he was able to overcome crushing defeat in being falsely accused and come back even stronger to set another world record. He went from dining with Kings & Queens to having friends and family not want to talk to him at the grocery store. How do you rise above all of this? Mindset. A strong mind can challenge all things. Having a focus that never wavers from your goals, no matter the obstacles in your way, can help you overcome even soul-crushing adversity. Starting every day with positivity: gratitude, affirmations, and more, can help you rise above.


Your words are the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Our team has committed to saying “I am” statements out loud, and we’re holding each other accountable to doing them. I am statements help your brain visualize your dreams and goals, making them easier to attain. Some examples are “I am the owner of a 20 million dollar business” or “I am the owner of a lake house” or “I am a marathon finisher.” All of these are lofty goals, and saying them out loud sets your brain on the right track. Saying it out loud matters too – it allows your brain to not only think the goals, write them down, but use different parts of your brain to cement them in your mindset. In a 2011 study by Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swingley, participants were asked to find a photo of a chair in a stack of photographs. The ones that said the word “chair” out loud as they searched were significantly faster searchers – proving that the verbal cues, rather than just thinking it enhanced performance.

Saying positive statements out loud such as affirmations or “I am” statements may sound silly at first, but they can be powerful mind-body connectors. Taking the time to say positive words, even a simple “I can do this” can be the difference maker in your day.


Have you ever had a really tough day that just continued to get worse? Or even a really tough week or month? It’s way too easy to get caught in a spiral of negativity. Why do you think the news is all doom and gloom all the time? Negativity sells. Think about Butch Reynolds – he had the worst possible thing happen to his career. He could have quit right then and believed all the negativity that was being thrown his way. He chose otherwise. But in our day to day lives, negativity at times can find a way to creep in.

Why are we so wired to pay attention to the negative? Psychologists call this negativity bias. It evolved in our systems because we are programmed to not suffer physical harm in the wild. In that case, paying attention to the negative things that might happen could have saved us from getting eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. While now we’re not likely to be eaten alive every day, our brains have to be trained to focus on the positive. Using positive words will lead to more positivity, and better outcomes.


Are you getting sucked into a spiral of negativity? Try some positive words, said out loud, to reset your mindset. Think of all of the things for which you are grateful, and tell yourself positive things about your future. You’ll be surprised how quickly the adversity fades into the background.


Do you want to hear Butch Reynolds tell his story live, either in person here in Columbus or via a live stream? We are sponsoring a free Breakfast with Butch event on December 15, and you are invited to attend. Registration is here, with an option for a private VIP meet & greet with Butch himself: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/212839628057. We’ll see you there!

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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