If you’ve never seen a wrestling match, you’ve never seen one of the grittiest athletic spectacles known to man, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch as a nervous mother (through laced fingers over my eyes, to be honest). And if you haven’t heard about Dustin Carter, you’re about to learn about how one of the toughest sports in the world created one of the most awe-inspiring human beings on the face of the earth, and someone who will surely make you rethink whether or not you’re truly pushing yourself to be the best you can be, too.
As an Applied Positive Psychology coach who specializes in teaching clients how to enhance well-being through the use of appropriate goal-setting techniques, I am always looking for information that will bolster the research I use in my work. Happy people have high self-efficacy, and they tend to set challenging goals that give them hope, persistence and the self-esteem that accompanies taking risks to become your best self.
A Gritty Person
The amazing story of Dustin Carter, which has been featured everywhere from “Inside Edition” to “The CBS Evening News,” exemplifies this uplifting growth mindset, and also will leave you awed and inspired by the power of the human spirit to find the positive when it would be so easy to focus on the negative.
Dustin Carter was a headstrong, charming and good-looking five-year-old when he contracted meningococcemia, an acute bacterial infection of the bloodstream. The doctors told his parents that his only chance at survival was to amputate his arms and his legs, which they did. Overnight, Dustin went from a little boy who could do everything to a little boy who could do almost nothing.
Although he’d always been a stubborn child, apathy overcame him as he struggled to live a life as a multiple amputee. His grades fell to F’s and he argued with his parents about normal adolescent things as he tried to keep up with his peers in every way.
In eighth grade, his entire life changed. “I want to wrestle,” he told his dad, Russ Carter, who had refused to baby his son, or treat him any differently than he had prior to the illness.Despite every limitation known to man, Dustin went out to wrestle and he lost. And lost. And lost some more more. His little body was tossed around the mat like a limp rag doll. But Dustin never quit or said it was too much for him to take.
Then Dustin got mad and made a plan that some people might have found too ambitious, and even ridiculous. He decided he wanted to go to the state wrestling tournament in high school, which was almost impossible given the competitiveness of the sport in Ohio, where he lives, but also because of his lack of limbs in a sport where controlling the other person’s body is the whole point.
To help him accomplish his audacious dream, Dustin developed a workout routine that is infamous for its brutality (click here to see his training session on YouTube (and he never stopped dreaming about the state tournament, an image that kept him awake during many sleepless nights as he pondered ways to work ever harder to get there.
Admiration from the Crowd
Just recently, a crowd gave Dustin a roaring and endless standing ovation when he qualified third in the 103-pound division for the Ohio Division II state wrestling tournament. The crowd’s admiration for his unbelievable skills, as well as his senior year wrestling record of 41 wins and 2 losses, left observers in tears of awe as Dustin let loose gutteral screams of joy from the center of the mat.Dustin’s parents, Russ and Lori, sobbed as he eventually galloped off the mat on his stubs and into their arms. “He’s my son, but he’s also my hero,” his mother said, adding that his stubborn spirit and unquenchable spirit of goal-setting had not only earned him a spot in the state tournament, but it had been the reason why he’d never pitied himself or stopped dreaming about the possibility of achieving his own miracles.
Dustin plans to wrestle in college, and wants to become a motivational speaker and nutritionist, as well. “I don’t look at myself as different,” Carter told one reporter. “I wrestle like anybody else. I go to school like anybody else. I can live on my own like anybody else. I can do anything anybody else can do. I don’t like people feeling sorry for me. Some people do.”
Don’t ever let anyone tell you a dream is unreachable. Persistence, stubbornness, passion and heart will fill in the gaps where you need a boost, and you’ll never know how many people you will touch with your spirit, changing their lives as well. Dustin Carter is changing the world, one wrestling match at a time.