5 Lessons About Courage & Sacrifice We Can All Learn From Simone Biles

Photo: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock
mirrored image of Simone Biles at a red carpet

Simone Biles’s recent choice to bow out of the Olympics is getting the very attention that also contributed to draining her energy and focus in the first place. 

Whatever you think of her decision, her actions are gifts to many of us. She had the courage to be honest about the risks to her mental and physical well-being. 

Her actions involve facing the accumulation of pressures, knowing what's enough, and how to step aside to allow others’ contributions.  

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Here are 5 lessons you can learn from Simone Biles on how to have courage when making difficult decisions.

1. Pay attention and get appropriate help to mitigate suffering from abuse.  

Simone’s 2018 book, "Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance," may not have the immediate accessibility of recent reporting on her situation. 

Yet, her current choice to leave the Olympic competition has been brewing for years as reminders of her traumas fester and physical dangers of her performance level worsen.  

The failure to protect her and other gymnasts from sexual predator and team physician Larry Nassar and cover-ups by USAGymnastics, U.S. Olympic Committee, and FBI investigators, deepened the suffering.  

Biles says she has used medicines and therapy to deal with such issues and pressures. 

But, however horrible sexual abuse is, there are many other types of emotional abuse that are evident at work, families, and relationships, in general. 

They often involve forms of emotional exploitation without tangible or intangible compensation or reciprocity. 

The criteria for identifying them in your situation can mean feeling mentally and/or physically exhausted, lack of enthusiasm about being in touch with or spending time with the exploiters, and fear of confronting or addressing issues with the people who drain you.

Avoid contributing to a worst-case scenario or your own suffering by getting well-matched, timely, and meaningful assistance. 

Stay alert to and away from any exploiters. Express what you want and need directly and clearly.

2. Address pressures of expectations of performing at increasingly greater levels. 

Not only has Biles been dealing with meeting her own extremely high standards, but she's also been dealing with public and professional pressures, whether it's for commercial, entertainment, or the joy of sports.

For some time, Biles has been thinking about what's enough. Knowing when and how to draw that line is a gift to yourself as well. 

More, without boundaries, is just a four-letter word that traps you in an endless loop of doing and giving.

3. Deal with isolation and continuing anxieties.  

Aside from the lack of audience and general camaraderie in sports, even Biles’s parents were not attending in Tokyo. During this recent time especially, her team, trainers, and support from other athletes provide continuing support.

Stay connected with people you respect and cultivate healthy, mutual support. Name the several people in your corner now and how you want to deepen and add some others to your life.

RELATED: PSA: Your Mental Health Issues Are Not Your Fault

4. Clarify your purpose in life.

Simone Biles is only 24 years old and has already become an icon. That limits her own self-image as well as others’ assumptions about her.  

Yet, imagine the range of her transferable skills. Among other capacities are her commitment to her goals, consistent discipline, imagining and seeking what seems beyond possible, caring about her team, and capacity to inspire others. 

What adventures await her with her name recognition and established abilities and skills beyond gymnastics?

In fact, being a GOAT (the Greatest Of All Time) can eventually be eclipsed by another gymnast such as Suni Lee who just won gold. In fact, Simone Biles’s decision made room for her to do that. 

Who will you encourage to reach further?

5. Listen to yourself first.

There are dangers to pleasing others rather than listening to yourself first. As Biles recently said, "At the end of the day, we’re human too. We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”

Her continuing challenge will be honoring what her marvelous body tells her, to let go of the comfort of allowing pure instinct to dictate its use. 

Though thinking probably led to the uncertainty and self-doubt that contributed to her "twisties," I sense it was the wisdom of her body and mind together that won out in the end. 

That led to the decision to support crucial self-care and avoiding the significant dangers of her sport that exist at her level especially. 

Convert the opportunities for clearer thinking and healthy action in self-doubt and uncertainty to your benefit without letting them immobilize you.

So, trust and commit yourself to organize and focus your choices and priorities

When you're feeling afraid or unsure, adapt Simone Biles’s courage to your nature and situation. 

Then, you’ll experience continuing benefits for yourself and ultimately for those with whom you share values and vision.  

RELATED: 5 Things I Say As Someone Dealing With Mental Illness — And What I Really Mean

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Get a free consultation at her website or obtain the bonus first chapter of her unique seventh book designed for individual use, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future.