(Photos courtesy of cisionwire.com and boston.com)
The first thing I noticed about Anjali Forber-Pratt was her smile. It’s constant. It’s contagious. The second thing that struck me was how this young girl just wheeled herself up two giant ramps in order to make it to my Sunday School class. She didn’t need any help to get there. It only took one class to realize that the student was the teacher. It’s been twelve years since our first class, and I am still learning from Anjali.
Nowadays, Anjali is a world-class athlete. For some unknown reason, she decided to take her valuable time to answer some of my questions just days before competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Once I began doing these YES Interviews I knew I needed to talk with Anjali. It is my privilege to share some of her YES with the rest of you!
Travis: I had the pleasure of getting to know you when you were in high school, and it was clear to me even at that age that you were living your YES…your purpose. In your own words, what does living your YES mean to you?
Anjali: To me, living your YES means embracing the moments around you and living life with a purpose. The best way I can describe what that looks like is that you are living life with congruence between your values and your actions–meaning you walk your talk. I think this can look differently for different people, but the commonality is that you are an active agent in your own life making purposeful decisions rather than letting life happen around you.
Travis: I love that, “congruence between your values and actions.”
Okay, you have an impressive laundry list of accomplishments. You have Paralympic medals. A world record. And you continue to push yourself and excel in every new venture. What is it that inspires you to push yourself? Is it about certain accomplishments – or is it bigger than that?
Anjali: I love this question because it is easy for somebody to look at my resume and think that it could be driven by the accomplishments, but I’m not. I’m certainly proud of my accomplishments, but to me these are tangible things that don’t motivate me internally, rather I see them as a vehicle to open doors for others. These accomplishments have laid an incredible foundation or platform for me to be able to change the world, but in and of themselves they are not my internal motivator.
I believe I was just born with this innate drive, I think of it as one of God’s gifts. There are numerous times in my life when the world gave up on me, and somehow I possessed that inner drive to persevere. As a baby, I was abandoned by my birth mother. I got sick with what could have been a deathly infection that led to my paralysis. I had to fight to obtain an education. The list goes on, but I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and that I am equipped to deal with whatever comes my way.
I will say, though, that in addition to this innate drive, people doubting me either to my face or behind my back fuel my drive. It makes me want to prove them wrong for passing a judgement about me without them actually taking the time to get to know me. I think this is something a lot of minorities can relate to– unfortunately there are people who make assumptions that because you are different than me you can’t possibly attain certain levels of success. And that is just wrong, and exhibit “A” is my life.
Travis: As an athlete, you are constantly pushing yourself to overcome physical obstacles. This innate drive has allowed you to reach some impressive heights. For you, what are the mental fears or challenges that try to hold you back the most? What is your approach to overcoming them?
Anjali: We all have fears. The trick is to not let these fears run your life or derail your thought processes. Fear has no life unless you feed it or give in to it. It’s important to outsmart fear. My mental fears or challenges are similar to those of many athletes: doubting my abilities or level of confidence, putting too much pressure on myself. The best trick is to just proclaim positivity. There is no room in my thought processes for negative thoughts or fears, just automatically turn the statement into a positive. For example, I have a set of positive affirmations that I go through in my head as I am warming up for a race.
Travis: Take us to that moment right before the race. Can you articulate your mindset in that space? Your Olympic events are quick events, and I am sure it is all about embracing the moments. What is it that you are thinking or feeling in those moments?
Anjali: On the start line, quite simply the only thought in my head is: It’s me and the finish line. It is like having tunnel vision of sorts. It’s important not to over think and to just trust your training and hard work that has brought you to that starting line.
Travis: Who or what is it that inspires you to get out of the bed every morning and keep pushing?
Anjali: The kids and adults who I mentor and hope to be a positive role model for are what keeps me going when the going gets tough. To realize that my actions play a much larger role in the greater circle of life, and that I am helping to change people’s lives and leave a legacy, that’s what is most important and motivating to me.
Travis: You have skied, done marathons, and continue to compete as an Olympian. What does the next challenge look like?
Anjali: Now that my schooling is over since I’ve completed my Ph.D., I’d say the next challenge is figuring out how to get paid for my current lifestyle and doing what I love.
Travis: Hmmmm…I can relate. If there is one idea or message you want to share with the world – what would it be?
Anjali: Dream. Drive. Do. This is my motto and it captures so much. We all have dreams, and whatever they may be it will take drive and hard work to achieve them. There will be fears, setbacks, obstacles, but it’s important to hold firmly onto that dream. It is also important to not let fear hold you back, rather get out there and do what it is that makes you happy and that can lead you to accomplishing your dream.
Travis: Thank you Anjali – and good luck!
Anjali is living her YES, are you? Take the YES Test to find out.
Want to live more YES in your life? Find out more about the YES 101 program that inspired this site. You can start now!