What did Ian Dobson, an American long-distance Coach and Olympic runner, teach Alexi Pappas?
When Alexi Pappas (a Greek-American runner, filmmaker, actor, and writer / represented Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio and broke Greek national record for 10000 meter race) was just four years old, she lost her mother who committed suicide. It was shocking and completely changed the course of her life.
Her father wanted her bereaved daughter to come out of the shock soon. He started signing her up for sports. Pappas responded and she became a girl with an overarching goal - to be an Olympian.
"Renaissance runner", as mentioned by New York Times, “Alexi Pappas, an Olympic athlete, filmmaker, actress and writer, has shared what she learned about confidence, self-reliance, mental health, embracing pain, and achieving dreams in her revealing and inspiring memoir – Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas.”
One day while training for the Rio Olympics, Alexi Pappas became frustrated, felt lost and frightened as she was not able to hit her pace on the track in spite of her best efforts.
Her coach, Ian Dobson, also an Olympian, explained that her workout was not a problem because it was aligned with the Rule of Thirds. He said, when you are dreaming and chasing for a big goal –
- You would feel good a third of the time
- OK a third of the time and
- Crummy (unpleasant) a third of the time.
He further explained to Pappas that in case you feel bad all the time…clearly a sign of fatiguing. If feeling good all the time - surely a worst sign - not working hard enough.
Interestingly, Pappas has talked about her conversation with her coach in her memoir – she has acknowledged that this was the most transformative advice she ever received.
“Instead of feeling like I was going off the rails, I realized I was right on track,” she said. “Nothing that I did change, I still gave it my best effort. It was just how I labeled it that changed.”
Alexi Pappas still uses the ‘Rule of Thirds’ in her life. While writing her book, for example, she had days where the words “did not flow,” but she still kept trying to write. “On the good days, you grow your confidence” and “On the crappy days you grow your patience, courage and resilience to stay on” said Pappas.
She truly embraced obstacles with great optimism…converted the severest and darkest moments as the breakthroughs - from high school awkwardness to post-Olympic depression - has shared valuable wisdom on the benefits of gracefully accepting what hurts - both emotional and physical.
People know well that Pappas approached mental health issues with a fresh and thoughtful mindset. Further, she also evidenced that she worked extremely hard to process her trauma and came out the other side of the tunnel with more self-love, compassion and self-knowledge than ever before…
“You have to take care of yourself first. You are your own most precious resource. Everything you are in this world hinges on you facing yourself before you face the world.” – Alexi Pappas
To Pappas, bravery is an inward-facing human mechanism - it is all in how you feel about yourself…how much you believe in yourself and it is about running toward your overarching goal… “Grit is what is left over when nothing is left”…a quote from her.