Sometimes the most difficult part about excelling in a sport is maintaining a long term love for it, that is fulfilling without being obsessive. We all know athletes for whom their sport defines them. It is tragic to see them decline over the years because they have nothing else to replace the sense of achievement they got from being elite at what they did.
Thankfully, there are ways to keep a healthy passion for your sport without going overboard. We will give you five ways to increase your passion to achieve in the athletic arena.
If having a healthy body is important, then what will motivate you to acquire it? It greatly helps to have people who are as fit and athletic, if not more so, than you are. Successful business persons hang around like-minded souls who have excelled in business. Great authors will rub shoulders with others who have written bestsellers. Sports is no different. It is not a coincidence that crack athletes hobnob with others who are well accomplished in sports. The second tactic is to find people who are doing what you do but are slightly better than you and let them push you to achieve.
Even coaches of young children will often encourage their players to scrimmage or practice against older, more experienced players. People who have reached the place you are trying to go can help you get there more quickly. Look into fitness clubs, athletic clubs, and other organizations that play sports near you.
Fit as a Fiddle
This first tactic may sound so obvious as to seem unnecessary to say, but we have to take care of our bodies through appropriate training, adequate sleep, nutrition, and activity. This is important to sustaining a sporty passion because keeping a body that is well conditioned and able to perform at a high level, makes playing any sport infinitely easier, not to mention more enjoyable. The pleasure you get from having a body that enables you to excel gives you a ton of motivation to continue playing.
Achievement or Fulfillment?
Many athletes have become great, using their achievements as motivation. But what if you aren’t able to enjoy even a modicum of “success” in your sport? Or what if, on the other side of the spectrum, you suffer from the same problem as Alexander the Great, who “wept for there were no more worlds to conquer”? The bottom line is, achievement, though it may be a great short term motivator, is not enough. There should be an internal impetus not tied to the external trappings of success. The thrill of the fight, the match, or the game, should be even more compelling than the winning of it. Why? Because without that inner desire to extend yourself, you will always be tied down to artificial symbols of success.
What exactly is an “MVP”? Does it really determine who is the best? What if your cup, trophy, or ribbon, is only a fraction of what you are capable? If you can play, fight, run, or perform better than you have ever done before, then that should be the true measure of who you are as a person. The credit belongs to the man who spends himself in a worthy cause”. Fulfillment trumps achievement in triggering your passion, every time.
The Path vs. the Place
Are you focused on where you are going, as an athlete, or how you are getting there? We are not merely talking about what milestones you are meeting, rankings you are reaching, or earnings you are eking out. How many laps you need to complete within a certain time frame or how high you rank as a golfer on tour, may not only be important but could determine whether you are meeting your obligations with sponsors. Yet, there needs to be a strong desire to enjoy and profit from what and who you are becoming as you rise in your sport. Otherwise, you will begin to succumb to the grind. That is the boredom, the pain, and the unpleasantness that threatens to eventually override your enjoyment of the sport.
Remember that your evolution as a better version of yourself is as much a part of playing sports as anything else. You are in better shape, have a higher level of confidence, and are more capable of translating your success in sports, into other areas of your life, because of that process. It isn’t because of anything you specifically won. Always remember to pay a respectful devotion, not to the awards or championships, but to the process of who you are becoming. It’s not the destination (place)that is most important, but it’s the process.
After the death of his father, and maybe, in part, because of it, Michael Jordan retired from professional basketball. Yes, even the best of us can be affected by the grind. But he didn’t retire from sports altogether. He went to go play baseball. Why? Because it represented something, that for him was a symbol of what he loved before all the drama and the madness–the good, the bad, and the ugly of playing basketball on a professional level.
Michael Jordan had actually played baseball first and enjoyed it for the pure fun that it is. He was able to play a sport, at least for a while, without meeting deadlines, fighting with general management, or playing for pay. I believe that Michael Jordan found himself after that short stint. When he later returned to the National Basketball Association, he was not only a better all-around player but a more compassionate player, one that found the ability to connect with his teammates and even put his success in their hands. So, tactic number five is to find time to play the sport you love, for the love of it.
These tactics will trigger the passion and sustain the drive in you to succeed and achieve fulfillment as long as you want to play.