basketball-1206011_1920Living with osteoarthritis, I’ve come to appreciate John Wooden’s quote in new ways.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

John Wooden was a legendary men’s college basketball coach at UCLA. During his tenure, from 1948 to 1975, UCLA won ten national championships in a 12-year period, including seven in a row.

I played basketball growing up and through college, and was deeply influenced by Coach Wooden’s basketball philosophy. Over the decades, his influence has touched everyone who has played basketball. And that influence has not been limited to basketball; it’s extended into other sports as well as business.

The above quote resonated with me as a basketball player and it’s recently resurfaced as I learn to live with ankle osteoarthritis.

My osteoarthritis has taken away a lot of the activities I really enjoy, some more slowly than others. Basketball, for instance, ended rather abruptly while my backpacking trips have slowly become shorter in the miles I hike and are taken less frequent. But at least I can still take them!

Learning to accept that I can no longer do an activity as much, or as well as I once had, is not easy for me. I’m pretty competitive and I’ve always been one to push myself and test my limits, skills I honed while playing basketball for so many years. I consider seeing how far I can push my ankle osteoarthritis as a new challenge. I don’t want to push my ankle to the breaking point, but my mindset is “How far can I take my OA without pushing it too far yet still be able to live an active lifestyle.”

The competitive voice inside my head is still loud and can be influential at times.

I was recently telling a friend about a backpacking trip I’m planning to take this September, and his reaction was, “Why do you choose to do that most challenging activity you can do?”

“That’s exactly why.” I said. “Because it’s a challenge.”

But while that determination worked well for me at one time in my life, it’s probably time to try an activity that’s more osteoarthritis friendly than backpacking.

So maybe it’s time for a change of my mindset. Currently, the way I try to overcome a shortcoming created by my osteoarthritis is to look at how can I keep doing that activity to challenge and test myself, while not making the OA worse.

It’s my way of trying to say that osteoarthritis can’t and will not win.

But when it comes to living with osteoarthritis, it’s not about winning. It’s learning to live with the condition as best I can. Maybe my mindset should be, as Coach Wooden suggested, is to look at what I can do versus what I can not, and test myself through those activities. That could mean becoming a better swimmer, writer, or even discovering a new activity I really enjoy.

But it’s hard letting go of goals and dreams from one activity and creating an entirely new set of goals and challenges that are more osteoarthritis friendly.

That’s an advantage of having osteoarthritis at a young age…I guess. It’s the growing process of being able to accept what you can’t and take the necessary time and steps to accept what you can do.

To read more about Ryan’s journey visit his personal blog