by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Perhaps we’ve all heard the catch phrase, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Olympic athletes understand what this means. To do your best even if you don’t win a medal is something to celebrate.

For some, just competing is a victory. Every Olympics is filled with stories of courage and dignity — athletes who had to overcome extreme adversity just to be able to compete. These examples of never giving up and persevering against all odds give hope to us all.

This may be why the Olympics matter to me. No matter their gender, age, nationality or sport, each athlete exudes a spirit of endeavor that inspires me to keep reaching for my own dreams and goals. And I want to cheer them on as they reach for theirs!

While watching one of the events yesterday, I was struck by the commentator’s remarks. He admitted the athlete had given it all he had. He acknowledged the athlete had in fact broken his own personal record. And then he put forward what he called the “big question.” He asked, “More importantly, will it be enough for gold?”

No doubt the athlete would love to win gold or even silver or bronze. But I don’t think that whether he won or didn’t win a medal was the most important point.

What was most important was that the athlete had done his best, given his all and surpassed his own record. If that results in also winning gold — great, awesome, cool. But in my opinion, his accomplishment isn’t diminished or enhanced by winning or not winning gold. He did a great job and he can and should be proud of that.

The U.S. had its first gold medal winner with Hannah Kearney. She wasn’t expected to win in women’s moguls this Olympics, but she did. Interestingly enough, she was expected to win in the Torino Olympics but she stumbled for a 22nd-place finish. I love that she didn’t let her disappointment in Torino diminish her hopes and expectation for excellence in Vancouver.

In watching all of the Olympic athletes, I often think to myself how any one of these men and women, striving to do their best, could be a gold, silver or bronze medal winner. And many times, we witness an unexpected victory.

My husband commented last night how much he loves to see that happen — the athlete that exceeds the expectations of others. I agreed and admit that is another reason the Olympics matter so much to me.

The can-do spirit of all of the athletes is truly awe-inspiring, especially when you also take into account their determination to excel. What was good enough for them last year becomes their goal to beat this year. These athletes seem to believe their best is indeed always yet to be. They never settle for last year’s job well done. So there is a commitment and expectancy for even more progress, growth and excellence.

Olympic athletes illustrate to us that the drive for success, happiness and fulfillment comes from within. In fact, that drive is God-given and God-ordained! We must not allow our own preconceptions or timidity to stop us from seeing the infinite possibilities within our reach or from utilizing and maximizing our God-given abilities and talents.

So my friends, whatever dream you are striving to attain, you can do your best. And playing the best game you can and giving it all you’ve got is good enough — at this moment in time anyway. Then come tomorrow, next month or next year, you can give it all you’ve got again.

We can all keep endeavoring to reach the perfection that God sees in each of us!