I love a good motivational speech as much as the next woman, but there are two kinds of speeches that have always left me wanting. It was the ones about passion and purpose. I remember speakers coming in to talk to us as players about living your purpose and finding your passions which was great because at least we would leave motivated. When you play sports there rarely is a lack of passion. You go hard day in and day out for your team and for yourself. There is that sense of working toward something bigger than you. The collective dream so to speak. If you’ve made it to the college level and beyond, chances are that you’ve spent a lot of time getting good at your craft. You don’t spend that much time and energy on something that you aren’t passionate about.
Here’s the thing…
“The speaker sometimes assumes that everyone already knows what their purpose is. Some might, but there are quite a few people that don’t have the slightest idea what it is.”
These days we are inundated with people talking about how they FOUND their passion through a series of unfortunate events that led up to this miraculous discovery of the thing they were put on this earth to do! Lol Yeah okay, but where are those speakers who come in and say, “you know what, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, I liked things, but I wasn’t really sure what I was PASSIONATE about.” “I didn’t know what my purpose was, but instead of sitting around hoping it would appear to me in a dream I just began doing things I liked.” That is a speech I can wrap my head around.
Let’s get into this a lil' bit. (If I was asked to speak in front of a group of athletes I would say this)
If you are going to win after basketball (insert your sport), your life has to have some kind of meaning to you. Winning isn’t just working and hanging out. It’s looking at all the areas of your life and consciously deciding how you want it to be. It’s you happening to life on purpose instead of life happening to you due to indifference. It won’t be the same as someone else’s meaning, but it has to matter to YOU. When your days are up playing and you have hours, that used to be filled with training, individuals, and falling out sleep from endless “suicides” now suddenly free, what are you going to do? While it’s easy to brush this question off and save it for later, I argue that even spending an hour a day “working” on your life after the game is worth it.
What does that even meeeeeeeaan!!?? Working on my life after the game?
Don’t let your eyes glaze over, stick with me… Those speakers may be onto something. Even though I don’t like the words passion and purpose I still think we all have them. When I was doing my own soul searching I struggled with the whole notion of what a passion IS exactly. I thought that it was this one thing that you were good at naturally and couldn’t wait to jump out of the bed for in the morning. That was how it was explained to me at least. I no longer think that.
After reading this I’ve grown more comfortable in my understanding of what passion is. Passions are things that interest you that you take the time to develop. Passions are also fleeting. You could be passionate about something one day and then a few years later care less about it. What they aren’t are little nuggets of gold waiting to be unearthed from the fibers of your being lol.
“passions begin with interest and interests are not merely discovered; they're also actively developed and deepened…
...passions are often created over time, through a series of experiences.” -Angela Duckworth, UPenn Professor-
When I read that, it made a hell of a lot more sense to me than the standard “find your passion rhetoric”. When it comes to sports we do not come out of the womb eating, sleeping, and breathing basketball (your sport). Our parents might have put us in a little onesie jersey
or surrounded us with balls, hoops, goals, or rackets, but unless we start experiencing some success and placing intrinsic value on that success, the sport doesn’t become a passion. It simply remains something we like to do. I started playing when I was 8 years old for the recreational league because my mom wanted my brother and I to get into something. When I started getting good at the game and being recognized for it, THAT’S when I got passionate about it. I'm pretty sure if I'd focused on any of the other things I was interested in before basketball I would have had the same kind of passion.
“You get passionate about something when you get good at it” -Ramit Sethi-
I’m gonna just leave this other quote about passion from Ramit riiiiiiiiight here... you can apply this to your game or life.
"If I start off by doing interesting things, I will find a few things that I really like…
If I find a few things that I really like, I’ll be more likely to practice longer and harder…
If I practice long and hard enough, I’ll get really good at some of them…
When I get really good at some of them- with some luck and a lot of effort- I could have amazing results."
Okay, so you see what passions are and you’re comfortable with going out and trying stuff,
Now let’s look at purpose…
This right here… used to be the bane of my existence. You remember the book the Purpose Driven Life? I think I got a copy when I graduated high school and at the time some of the concepts were a little above my head. Even as an adult when I hear people talk about finding your purpose I find myself rolling my eyes. Tell me if this sounds familiar. “You were put on this earth to do one thing. Without you that task isn’t going to be accomplished” HOW OVERWHELMING IS THAT?? I’m on this Earth to do one thing!? And I have to find that one thing or I won’t be happy!? That is how people often talk about purpose as if you are meant for one specific career and once you find it you will be so happy. I feel like that's is misleading though. It sounds like they are saying that one career (once you find it) is going to fulfill you forever.
***Sidebar: I LOVE personal development and growth. For myself yes, but I also like to see the face of a person that goes from their point A to their point B. One of the best books I’ve read to date is Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina. While it has practical application to it, it’s really a book that helps you help yourself. You know, the whole teach a person to fish thing…***
...Back to purpose. My understanding of purpose now is what I call your core meaning. The impact that you want to leave as a legacy. The message that you want to express to others that will make a positive impression. Do I believe that there is one thing that you are born to do? Maybe, but I think it’s exhausting and life-sucking to fixate on it. If there was one thing that you wanted to express, what would that thing be? Instead of waiting for it to fall from the sky, think about things is your life that really bother you. What makes you euphoric? The overlap of those things is at least a hint at your purpose. This is an oversimplified version of a self exploratory exercise, but it’s a good start for the scope of this post.
Years ago I would worry myself sick because I didn’t know what I was “supposed to do”. When I thought about what bothered me and what I was euphoric about the answer was basketball. It was athletics in general because I am fairly good at most sports. The thing that tripped me up when it came to purpose was thinking that since I didn’t go pro, I somehow hadn’t and wouldn’t fulfill my purpose. I had attached my purpose to a career title INSTEAD of my core meaning. I loved the game because it was fun and for what it taught me (self-discipline, courage, resilience, etc), but I hated the game because of what I THOUGHT it took away from me ( comradery, travel, financial stability, etc).
I ain’t gonna lie, when my mom or anybody else would ask me about basketball I would get upset. I hated going home to Indianapolis because people would always ask me if I’m still playing or coaching or whatever. I didn't want anything to do with it. I didn’t pick up a basketball for 4 years after I graduated. I was going through the motions of life waiting for my “purpose” to magically come upon me. On the outside looking in I seemed to be doing fine and I was by anyone's standards, but I was without meaning.
This quote from Mark Twain says it all… “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out WHY.” Little did I know, my purpose had been there all along… I was just too busy trying to attach it to a certain career to notice.
"As we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same" -Marianne Williamson-
These are two of my favorite quotes (one of which is tattooed on my hip) because this kind of leadership doesn't seem forced to me. It matches my personality. It speaks to my core meaning.
My purpose is to help people help themselves through leading by example and curating an environment where they can recognize and accept the responsibility of their life. That may not mean anything to you, but it has a profound meaning for me. To me, little can compare to really making a difference in another person’s life.
Your core meaning can be expressed in many different ways. Basketball just happened to be one way for me. You figure out other ways to creatively express your core meaning through trial and error.
And so for you… don’t be frustrated if you don’t know what you want to do or who you want to become. Don’t feel like you are limited to the sports arena. If that is where you feel you belong by all means go for it. If you feel like your purpose would be best delivered in another way, go try some shyt out and see what feels good. It won’t be perfect and it might not work, but that’s okay. Make the best decisions you can make and put them into action. If you mess up, you make adjustments to your delivery method and keep it moving. It’s not the end of the world.
This is the work that I was talking about earlier. This inner work that is overlooked as pointless. BEFORE the motivational speaker comes in and hypes you all up, BEFORE you start “building your brand”, BEFORE you start building businesses, BEFORE you start doing all the tactical things that are absolutely necessary… do this work FIRST. You don’t need money, you don’t need a lot of time, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. There are plenty of people out here existing. If you truly want to Win after Basketball (your sport) and live a life that has meaning TO YOU, do THIS work. Nobody is going to do it for you, no one is going to care more about the outcome than you.
When passion meets purpose it’s an incredible thing, almost kismet (destiny or fate). That’s the sweet spot!
Passion+Purpose= Personal Fulfillment
If you found value in this please like it, share it, and as always if you know someone that could benefit send it to them!
Photo credit: top- http://theperfectjob.org/help/
baby- 5 little Monkey Boutique