Who Am I, and What Am I Going to Do With My Life?
I’m sure you all can remember way back when you were a kid and you just knew that you were better than other people.
You were faster, stronger, you had more guts, more heart, and you took more risks. You were the first one to step up, and never, ever minded challenging yourself. As you proceeded to carry on in this way, sport drew you in, because sport is such a beautiful thing. It brings out the very best in those who are so inclined.
When we are challenged in these ways, we respond. Humans are truly amazing in their ability to overcome challenges and rise above any obstacles in our path. But there are consequences.
As you experience the excitement of winning and come to realize that you are better – as people continue to pat you on the back and praise you – you can fool yourself into thinking “I am really worth something when I perform. I am worth something when I win, but I am really worth something when I perform and win.” And so on.
But what happens when you transition out of sport, whether that be due to an injury, the end of college career, retirement, or otherwise.
A common happenstance among retired athletes is that they experience a withdrawal from the thrill of “being known”. At this point, they also may go through a mid-life crisis as they attempt to reinvent themselves outside of competition. They are no longer known as an athlete.
People view retired athletes differently, as you may view yourself differently if you’re going about the transition into a ‘normal’ life.
As a retired athlete you will no longer be validated for your wins and your accomplishments. You’ll need to find another way to feel like you are contributing, and you will need to find value within yourself.
Whether you’re at this point in your career or not, there will be a period of time when you will feel stagnant, when you do not know what to do or where to go.
There are three distinct areas to focus on for those that are beginning to transition out of their career. If that’s not you, and if you’re at the peak of your career, these are still great areas to develop while you’re competing and to help ease the inevitable change. Think of them as nourishment and recovery for your athlete soul:
Discover your purpose.
Discovering your purpose in life is difficult, but it’s the first step towards being able to access your limitless potential. Each and every human being has a unique purpose and oftentimes that purpose is realized through serving other people. Many people feel more alive when they are of service to others, as they feel like they’re making a difference in the world. You may not know where to begin but you could start by reflecting on these words by Gil Bailie “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Develop your identity
Another key element to a successful transition is determining who you are and what things in life are going to define you. If you place your identity solely in your results, you may struggle. If your identity is rooted in your former accomplishments, you may continue to struggle because you will soon begin to realize that the fans and the media have moved on to the next athlete. Take time to discover new hobbies that will help develop your identity and expand your community.
Build your community
Surround yourself with people that love you and care about you for who you are and not what you do or have done in the past. These people shouldn’t care that you are or were a professional athlete. They won’t care about your results, and won’t identify you with your achievements other than those that have to do with you just being yourself. Your inner circle should be made up of people that celebrate you for who you are. Those who identify with you solely through your competitive achievements may not be your true friends.
It’s your life: reap the rewards
Determining what you are going to do with your life as you transition out of your career can be challenging, and it will definitely require some downtime. Just keep in mind – it’s okay not to know what you’re going to do for a while. Oftentimes we feel pressured; We may feel pressured by society or by others to be quick with an answer, but in times of major transition such as this, it’s okay not to know.
Be content. Surround yourself with friends. Understand that it is going to be a difficult process, but that you will weather the storm. You may feel inadequate, you may feel unprepared, you may feel helpless, and all of that is okay. It’s normal. You have accomplished much in life already, more than most people ever will.
Know that you are loved, that you are cared for, and that you have an entire community of people who have experienced the same things you’re going through right now.
“As a retired athlete, you will no longer be validated for your wins and your accomplishments. You’ll need to find another way to feel like you are contributing, and you will need to find value within yourself”
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