I wonder how many words have been written about Andy Murray since his Wimbledon defeat at the weekend?
A lot, that's for sure. Several articles were posted online mere moments after Federer held aloft the coveted golden trophy, and had obviously been prepared in advance along with parallel pieces intended for publication only in the event of a British victory; I think Charlie Brooker was probably alone in admitting honestly, in print, that he'd written his amusing Guardian article before the final even started. There's not a great deal to add to that which has already been penned: Federer was the better player, Murray was gracious and emotional in defeat and perhaps he'll be successful next summer. Yes to all of it.
Since undertaking and completing Jeff Goins' writing challenge, I've been thinking a lot about confidence and hurdles and barriers and discouragement and hard work and setbacks and success. And it seemed to me that Andy Murray encapsulated all of those things on Sunday afternoon. He's worked so hard and done so well just to get to the final, he held his own for at least the first half of the match, and ultimately wasn't the winner. But he's a better player than he was last year. As he said himself during his post-match speech, he's getting closer. He's the top British player at present, and that in itself is an incredible achievement. But it's not enough for him: he wants to progress still further, to improve his game, to beat Federer and experience the rare triumph of winning Wimbledon.
A lot of people were charmed and touched by Andy's tearful words, spoken unsteadily but sincerely in order to congratulate Roger and thank his supporters. The laconic and sometimes moody Scot has gone up in the estimation of many, following his performance both on and off the court. And his determined attitude is, and should be, an inspiration too. After staying at home on Sunday night to rest, lick his wounds and reframe his focus, he's now preparing for the Olympics. And other forthcoming tournaments. And Wimbledon 2013. This particular defeat has stung, but he's not going to allow it to wreck everything for himself, or let himself be affected by the inevitable criticism he's still receiving from various anti-Murray quarters. If anything, it has probably spurred him on more furiously, to prove to himself and his audience that he can do even better.
It's so easy to look at other people who are ahead of us in our own particular game - whether that's tennis, teaching, parenting, writing, whatever - and feel discouraged. That person is better than I am. I'll never get there. It's too hard. I'll never be successful. And of course there are never any guarantees in life, just as Andy Murray knows that he may never win Wimbledon. He might be ahead of every other young tennis player in Britain and most of the rest of the world as well, but he's determined to keep improving. And whatever his motives are for doing so, he'll keep working towards that goal. Improvement. With a view to winning tournaments, to be sure, and undoubtedly there'll be more setbacks and defeats along the way. But still, improvement. Which calls for dogged hard work and perseverance and confidence, especially when we come up against hurdles and barriers and discouragement. Every step we take is worthwhile. And sometimes we all need to be reminded of that truth.
We all have different dreams. Some are small targets. Others seem unattainable beyond our wildest imagination. And it's good to reach for them, isn't it? To stretch out and challenge ourselves. To accept help from others along the way. To learn from those who are further on in the game. And to strive for improvement, even in the face of temporary defeat.
What are your dreams? I'd love to hear about them.