The Gym bag framework

One of my favorite shows is The Golden Girls. Because Dorothy. Say what you want about those ladies, but they are the EPITOME of #squadgoals! We could all learn a thing or two from them.


Look at this clip from the first episode of the show. Rose gets laid off from her job as a grief counselor (wait... y'all don't know the episodes like I do lol) and is in a place of confusion and hopelessness. 



Rose is in a similar position as a lot of athletes just gradating and ones that have been out of the game for a few years.


  • She had been doing the same thing for many years...

  • She is not confident in her abilities to move ahead in another field...

  • She has an idea of what she wants but thinks she's not qualified...

  • She didn't see all the equipment she has to work with...


Can you see the parallels?


I try not to generalize so if you begin to read this and it's not resonating with you that's okay. I wont be offended. The "Gym Bag Framework" is an exercise to identify your personal meaning and build confidence in your skills and abilities. Once you can see what you're working with, you can decide where you want to put your energies. You can feel empowered to go after that job you thought you weren't qualified for or learn a new skills for personal/professional satisfaction.


The goal here isn't to "find your passion" or "discover your purpose" (which are phrases I don't particularly care for).


At this point you are just taking inventory of what you currently have. Let's think about a gym bag for a moment... this is where you keep the stuff for games/working out. The bag itself has a fundamental purpose, but it can be used in several different ways. You can use it for work out clothes, you can use it from travel, you can put a pet in it (not my pet though, Dame isn't really about that life). I think you get what I mean though. The bag has a purpose but it's carried out in different ways.


You are the bag. You have a fundamental purpose (the meaning that you want to have), however, that meaning can be manifested in different ways. You have skills, assets, and talents that make this possible, but you've only used them for athletics.


*Disclaimer- I'm not a therapists or counselor, but this exercise helped me*


Dump the bag out by asking yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What personal meaning do I get from athletics?

  2. What skills and qualities did I learn through my participation?

  3. Is it possible to get that same or similar meaning from something else?

What personal meaning do I get from athletics


I'll be the first to admit that finding meaning in your job was a foreign concept. It just wasn't high on my list. However, after years of discontent I had to reevaluate my position. A study by Dr. Barbara Fredrsickson, professor of psychology at University of North Carolina and her colleagues, looked at people's self-reported levels of happiness and meaning. 75% of participants reported high on levels of happiness but low on meaning. It concluded that when you get some level of meaning from your "work" you are happier, don't mind going in on Monday, and the quality of your work is better.  


Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's all well and good but what does that have to do with anything?


Think about it...


As a player, the minute you put on your uniform and stepped onto the court you felt alive. You felt like a different person. That person had meaning that surpassed almost everything else.


... I felt like I was inspiring people...


... When I played I loved being in front of a large group...


... My creativity was always on point ...


... I loved connecting with my teammates...


Nobody's answer is the same. Sometimes it may seem like a selfish statement, but it's what gave you meaning and it's important to zero in on that. What was that meaning for you and what were the feelings associated with that meaning? I often hear people say "there's nothing like that feeling", but consider the possibility of having that same type of feeling in another way.


What skills and qualities did I learn through my participation?


You can probably name a dozen or so of these... discipline, resilience, time management... All these are skills gained from athletics. These are assets that when taken out of the context of sport are extremely valuable. How beneficial would it be if you had a high pressure job, and you had already spent years making quick decisions under pressure? Say you are hesitant to apply for a position involving customer service; pull your communication skills out of the bag because you have been dealing with problems for years.

Look for the hidden benefits under the surface of the words.



Since you have been an elite athlete, chances are, you had dedication and drive to learn the skills you needed to compete at a high level. Learning a new skills isn't as scary when you think about what you've already overcome to get to where you are today. You have an arsenal to pull from if you empty the bag so you can see it.


Is it possible to get the same or similar meaning from something else?


I watched this interview today with Marie Forleo and Seth Godin. If you don't know who that is watch the interview it's awesome. She was saying that before she became one of the most sought after business women in the country she bar tended, held fitness classes, and did some personal coaching. All those things had a common thread... she was connecting with people, helping them achieve goals, and challenging herself. Those roles were different from each other but the underlying meaning was that she got to connect with people in a way that added value to them.


So, in the framework, the last part is looking at how you can take your skills and personal meaning and expand your identity to see the possibilities of manifesting that meaning another way. *Warning* This is where you may get frustrated. You've got bills, possibly loans to pay back (damn you Sallie Mae!!!), and you still want to enjoy life. The thing that gives you meaning MAY NOT BE YOUR ACTUAL JOB. If you happen to be able to combine your skills and meaning great! Don't get caught up trying to MAKE those things match though. There is a sense of meaning that intrinsically flows through you. I hope this framework can be the start of expanding the realm of possibilities for you.


The hardest part of this is being honest with yourself. When I first did it myself one of my meanings was that I liked recognition. I found meaning in practicing something and getting good enough to perform at a high level. After looking at my arsenal I realized, that kind of meaning isn't relegated to just basketball! If I can focus and be diligent in learning those skills surely I can do the same thing with something else. If you'd like to know more about my process with it you can send questions to me at


Take the time to ask yourself the questions. Don't worry about what others might say about you wanting to expand your capacity to grow. If you are a recent graduate or been at the job for a while and feel like you are just "out here", try it out.  


What's next?


1. Leave a comment sharing what your learned from this exercise. How was it helpful for you?


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OH! I almost forgot...


If you were wondering what happened to Rose, she got a job working as a newscaster for the local TV station. Talk about reclaiming your identity!!