Think Big

By Pam Ries

As a freshman in high school, I aspired to be a cheerleader. Not just any cheerleader: I would be the best on the squad! It didn’t matter that I already had noteworthy accomplishments
(mostly musical) and had won competitions; I set my sites on being an amazing cheerleader. To me, at the time, this was thinking big. I proceeded to practice. I practiced a lot. I learned from successful and popular cheerleaders. I ignored my lack of acrobatic skills and believed the judges would do the same. But, during tryouts, my timing was off, I forgot some words (to a cheer, no less) and my jumps were pathetic. I smiled through it, even though I was literally shaking with fear.

I was not selected. Devastation set in. I cried for hours. As my loving mother consoled me, this was her message that stuck with me: “I know how important this is to you now. Years from now, it won’t be. Cheerleaders are important to the team and the school, but the girls who believe cheerleading and popularity are the most important parts of their lives will live to regret it. Others will see what a special person you are and how beautiful you are inside and out, whether you are a cheerleader or not. You have so much potential.”

She was telling me to think bigger. I’m not sure how many days it took me to recover from the disappointment, but I soon realized I was overly focused on the notoriety of cheerleading. Many friends reached out to encourage me; these were people who liked me for who I already was, not because I aspired to be a cheerleader. I shifted my focus and began to appreciate my strengths and imagine how I could accomplish even greater things.

“Patience and resilience are essential as you pursue your dreams.”

Fast forward to where I am today: Those who are closest to me know that self-doubt sometimes creeps in and tries to overwhelm me. I have high expectations of myself and others, and I get disappointed when those expectations are not met. I am not perfect, nor is anyone else despite the perfectly edited Facebook and Instagram images we view every day. So, how do I stay inspired and think big?

First, I take good care of myself. My relationship with God is where I draw strength. I also need physical strength, so I exercise and try to make good nutritional choices. Once those fundamentals are in check, I focus with optimism on my strengths and opportunities.
As Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”

I view experiences each day as learning opportunities and reflect each night on what I learned as I get ready for the next day’s challenges. I determine how I can make a difference in my workplace, community, church and family. I think about how I can make a change in this very big world and then I go for it, not for the notoriety, but for the personal satisfaction of using my strengths and resources to make a difference.

I don’t believe in settling for the status quo. I do, however, believe patience and resilience are essential as you pursue your dreams. Always think about the possibilities. Don’t just hope for something to change. Take action. And, just when you believe you’ve failed at the one thing that would set you apart, dust yourself off, hold your head high and focus on what makes YOU special. Visualize what you can and will do next. Think bigger. Not what is, but what is to be.

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Pam Ries is senior vice president and chief human resources officer
at Spectrum Health. She lives in Grand Rapids. 

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