How many of you remember being in the high school basketball or netball team as a “reserve” or “benchwarmer”. I was that for our girls’ soccer team, whose popularity grew rapidly after the team registered several unexpected wins in record time across the city. Girls’ Soccer? At a private school? Somewhat of an anomaly in my days at Chisipite Senior School. With a dedicated coach to teach the young ladies how to dribble the ball, the soccer matches became a Friday afternoon fiesta of sorts, with parents and spectators from the boys’ schools coming out in their numbers to watch whether our team would add yet another win to the count.
When the team won I didn’t feel the full extent of the win because well – most times I didn’t get to play. When the team lost there was that consolation I gave my inner self like “Eish, at least I wasn’t on the field, so technically, I didn’t lose!” Whatever I told myself, being the reserve or benchwarmer didn’t guarantee a personal outcome I enjoyed telling others about. I was always stuck somewhere in the middle with little to say about my performance or shying away from the massive celebrations because I wasn’t part of the playing or scoring line-up.
Fast forward to now, close to 20 years later, where the game of life has granted me bountiful opportunities to get on the pitch and play. Thankfully, after a series of false starts, struggles to hone in on what I really wanted to do or become, and some bench warming – I’ve got this whole life thing figured out. In coaching, mentoring and speaking to women, it is quite apparent that many of us go at life as spectators of its happenings. Plagued by fear of breaking beyond self-imposed borders, resistance to taking on new challenges or simply creating a series of excuses that justify the former, a great number of women are stuck in a rut, as the internal war rages between their current self, and how to bridge the gap between their needs, wants and perception of their ideal, authentic self.
Whether you are navigating life as in entrepreneur, juggling the pressures of a career in your field, balancing your marital relationship, raising children, or doing your best to maintain holistic friendships, the game of life presents a smorgasbord of opportunities to consider, take up or walk away from. In order to win, you have to try a hand at playing. They say if you don’t try, you lose any and all chances of winning. As an individual on the quest to continued personal reinvention, advocating the same to the audiences I speak to through my posts and speakerships, I encourage anyone I interact with to make a valiant attempt at whatever it is they have in mind as a life goal by getting on the pitch, court, boardroom – whatever. To win, you have to be a player in the game of life. There are plenty of reasons why you should give life’s obstacles and opportunities a shot no matter what, but allow me to share three key reasons that have steered the way I do life, knowing what I know now:
- Life’s no fun when it’s plagued by a series of “what ifs”. It took me a long time to become somewhat of a go-getter. To be quite frank, many of my younger years were ravaged by poor self-esteem and lack of confidence. Reasons were few for me to be this way but I just was – until a series of negative experiences opened my eyes to the hounding prospects of living a life of “what if”. If I didn’t get it together and start going after what I wanted, life was going to be rooted in more insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. And so I fought, turning a lot of those “what ifs” into a series of “this is” that I am quite proud of. The same can hold true for you also. You don’t want to look back at life and have to acknowledge constant defeat. You do not want to have to look for lackluster reasons why you didn’t just take the risk and do what noble thing needed to be done when the opportunity came. You do not want to have to shy away from the conversations when others speak of the successes that have encountered from pursuing that goal you once shared with them. To avoid regrets, or classic cases of midlife crises, channel a collision of faith and action to turn your “what if” into a “what is!”
- Spectators rarely win – unless they join in the play. Truth be told, no one gets handed a platter with the word “winner” or “runner-up” engraved in it until they put in a good fight to get what they want. If you want that certificate in a golden frame on your wall, you’re going to have to shave off a couple of hours of sleep to pass those modules. If you are looking to launch that clothing brand, you may need to troll the market for materials, round up a couple of seamstresses if you can’t sew yourself and get to cutting and stitching. If you want to live a debt-free life, lay off the excessive spending and cut up those credit cards. Blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. Whatever it is you desire – you will need to put in a good bit of effort to turn your ship’s rudder in the direction you so wish. Watching from the sidelines will guarantee two things; no results and no progress. “I want to fail” and “I don’t want to progress” – said no ambitious person ever! If you want a chance at winning, you need to get off the spectator bench and join the play in motion. Now then, will you watch others take the podium or at least learn the T’s and C’s of participation before making a decision to get started?
- Every experience trains you for new exploits – or life-changing revelation. In 2008, I took on a well-paying job as a business development manager for a high volume poultry company in Harare. One morning the workers went on strike, and the office team and I spent the entire day harvesting eggs from poultry houses and scrapping them with razor blades (that was the method of cleaning their shells). We had to do this because there was no one else to do it. I was 7 months pregnant during this time, and the experience was grueling. The experience sensitized me to the toil and grit of those underpaid and far less privileged than I was. A few years later, I tried a hand at my own poultry project. While it didn’t do very well, there were key lessons there too with one being – I wasn’t cut out for anything related to GOD’s feathered creations, and two – don’t take on a project just because everyone else is doing it. The chicken rearing fad quickly flooded the market with broilers and I was one of the small scale producers that didn’t rack in profits for the come up!
I’ve looked back at many seasons in life and thought – “Had I not tried out that business, or “had I not spoken to this person” – “I would have never known how to XYZ.” Every season and subsequent attempt at one thing or another leads to a series of revelations. You can only discover the things you enjoy, or are gifted at, by trying a hand at a couple of different things. Believe me, you will fail at some. That’s okay. Fail forward. Blogging at a low point in my life resulted in my co-founding www.Quintessentialf.com four years ago, which has since evolved into hosting a series of inspirational events for women, regional and international speaking events, sharing motivational content digitally across numerous platforms and two published books. Writing has also allowed me to develop my interest in PR, which has opened some pretty incredible doors for me in my career as a communications strategist.
If you take every opportunity you get as one to learn, stretch beyond your comfort zone and expand your network, some pretty compelling things can happen, putting you on the fast track to that big break, or winning streak you’ve been praying for. My every day is far cry from those days of bench warming or confronting life’s challenges with an already defeated outlook. My faith in Christ – because we all need to believe in a higher power that transcends the earthly realm – is a key motivator. Faith should anchor your decisions to get off the bench too, fueling the added strength you need when things get tough during the seasons of exhaustive play. In whatever season you find yourself navigating in this game of life, know that he or she that gives it a shot is better than the one who spectates and passes commentary from the sidelines. Whatever your intended goal, let NOW be the time you put your hand up and join the play in motion. If you fail, fail forward rather than stay on the bench. Trust me when I say this – your future self will thank you later for trying.
Yvonne Chiedza Mtengwa is the author of “Reinvented: Challenging insecurity to live authentically through faith”, a book encouraging women to confront their issues with relationships, insecurities and self-fulfilling prophesies, in an effort to truly discover who they were created to be.
She is also a co-author of “Dear Fear Volume 2: 18 Powerful Lessons on Living your best life on the other side of Fear”- a compilation of short stories by American visionary author Tiana Patrice.
Passionate about travelling, writing about and experiencing leisure and lifestyle brands, Yvonne is a marketing and communications strategist, and is also the Co-founder of www.Quintessentialf.com, a Christian lifestyle movement for women. Through this platform, she continues to garner acclaim as a speaker and motivational blogger with messaging that targets the millennial African woman. Her articles have featured on international websites including www.ThePrayingWoman.com and www.thriveglobal.com
Yvonne is also the Founder of Narratives Inc., a boutique communications agency specializing in entrepreneurial design and shaping the narrative of lifestyle and social development enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa.
She is wife to Bernard and mother to two children Shalom and Ithai and currently resides in Abu Dhabi.
To read more about Yvonne, visit her website on www.ReinventedToday.com