Finding Your Life Purpose After Sports and at Other Crossroads
Have you ever thought about what your purpose is in life? That lingering question can have a major impact on your daily mental health, especially if you feel stuck or you’re transitioning into the unknown, which is a common feeling for athletes once they retire. Maybe you’re feeling stuck, you’re dealing with a specific mental health issue, you feel like you’re in a funk, or you’re feeling off balance. In those moments, in the back of your mind, you’ve probably wondered what your purpose really is.
Most people, including myself, get lost in thoughts about their purpose quite often. It’s natural to want to improve your life and evolve particularly when you’re going through a rough time. Just think about how massive the self-help industry is. We’re all looking for answers. At one point in my life when I was feeling lost and like I was spinning around on the same merry-go-round no matter what I tried, I had a thought about purpose that changed my life.
Purpose isn’t a singular event or action. It’s who we are at our very core. Our lives aren’t meant to be defined and confined by boxes we have to fit into, but rather by choosing projects that we are drawn to and that are aligned with who we are. It evolves as we evolve meaning that we don’t have to have it all figured out every minute of every day. I’ll elaborate.
What’s your purpose?
To me, purpose is living true to who you are. So, when you think about who were as a kid and what personality traits still exist in you today, that’s the foundation of your purpose or as I like to all them, your “Core Traits.” For example, I’ve always been a problem solver. As I often say, I have the heart of a fighter and the soul of a peacemaker. I can’t stand injustice, I’m fiercely independent, and I just want everyone to get along. Of course, there are many more parts of me, but those are a few of my Core Traits that have never wavered. There’s a reason that I am that way and that’s because it serves my purpose. It doesn’t mean that I can’t work on or change the things I don’t like or those that no longer feel good. That’s part of spiritual growth. It does mean, that I know what actions I can take to serve that purpose.
I’ll use my affinity for coaching as an example of how my core traits become purposeful actions. One reason I love athlete mental health coaching so much is I help people see their soul and find clarity, which is problem-solving by giving them peace of mind. Guiding people to solve problems comes naturally to me. I’ve honed and evolved my skills in this area, and I suspect I will continue evolving those skills my entire life. There is no greater joy for me than when I help someone improve his or her life and find peace of mind in just one conversation.
If you’re wondering about your purpose, I highly encourage you to take the time to think about your Core Traits and what brings you joy. The next piece of living your purpose is through actions that align with your Core Traits. In other words, doing the things that speak to who you are and exploring the things that you are drawn to.
What are your projects?
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzo
I once heard the late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer talking about this quote. He said that to achieve a goal or make a change, you must begin with taking that first single step towards attaining it. He went on to say something to the effect of that once you’ve taken enough steps on that journey, a new journey will appear.
Projects are the purpose-driven activities that you’re drawn to. That could be personally, professionally or spiritually. If we look at life as a series of purpose-driven projects, the idea of living our purpose becomes a much less daunting idea. One of the reasons I bring this up is because as adults we often think, “I am who I am.” We place ourselves in a box based on who people think we are, the reputation that we’ve built, and the actions that we have taken. Athletes might feel lost towards the end of their career because they’ve only ever been known as an athlete. What else is there? Well, if we look at your life as an active athlete as a project serving your purpose, the next stage of life is simply just another project. The beauty is you get to choose. And when you choose things that are aligned with your core traits, you’re living your purpose because you’re being true to yourself. It’s as simple as that. What’s not always easy is taking the step to figure out the next project and then act on it, which brings me to my next point.
How can you step outside your limitations?
Maybe you worked hard for people to know you as an athlete. In my case, I worked really hard for many years for people to get to know me as a business owner, a boss lady, and a digital marketing specialist. In networking circles, I was often introduced as the local “marketing girl” or “marketing guru.” (I despise both terms by the way. I’m more than a just a “girl” and no one in this world is a “guru” because no one knows it all.) At any rate, I felt stuck by these titles that I worked so hard for over decade to become top-of-mind for. There was a time when I felt that people only see me as those things, but I knew I was so much more than that. I also wrestled with messing with that reputation that I worked tirelessly to build if I dared to step outside of the box.
Then it began to sink in. I was watching an interview with Ice Cube on the show Highly Questionable and he referred to his new BIG3 Basketball League as his latest project. I’ve heard countless celebrities talk about their latest transformation, reinvention, and projects before, yet for some reason, this particular moment led to another ah-ha moment. Ice Cube was a gangsta rapper, then an actor in movies like Friday before transitioning to roles in films like Are We There Yet, and now he’s heading up a new basketball league. It’s safe to say he’s done way more than this, but the point is, he has pursued project after project all while refusing to box himself in. Everywhere you look, there are tons of extremely successful people doing the same thing. The first step is therefore to remove the mindset limitations of your next project. It’s your life, claim it and live it in ways that align with your core traits.
The next step in that process is to remove worry. I listen to a Podcast by Dre Baldwin called Work On Your Game. If you have never heard of it, I seriously recommend that you listen to it. What I love about Dre’s work is that it’s not smoke and mirrors advice; it’s real, attainable, down-to-earth stuff in a format that’s clear and concise. Anyhow, on one recent episode called, “How To Become The Person You’re Afraid Of Being,” he had a point that made me pause. I was already working on this blog at the time, and as they say, timing is everything. I wholeheartedly believe that part of the process of choosing your next project is to pay attention to the messages coming in all around you. It turns out this episode had a strong message for me. Dre said, “85% of the limitations that are keeping you from doing what you want to do and being who you want to be are not real. They don’t actually exist.” It was another ah-ha moment. He said this was he was explaining that most of the things we worry about never come into fruition. He had an excellent point.
Then, a few days after hearing that Podcast I had a conversation with my mom and was speaking with her about life and my fears. We got on the topic of her and my grandmother and how I watched them work like crazy stressed out people who were always stretched thin for money, never for love, but always for money. I learned my work ethic and strength from them as my strongest female mentors. I told myself growing up that I would do better, but I ended up creating a life based on an unconscious belief that money was hard to come by and you had to be working and stressed to get it. If you weren’t doing enough, you weren’t going to get enough. It took me a long time to make the realization that a prosperous life doesn’t mean you have to suffer and it’s one that I’m still working to break. During the conversation with my mom, I revealed this to her and she said, “Misty, don’t be like us. We don’t want you to be like us. We want more for you.” It was a mindset game changer.
Shortly thereafter, I took some down time to sit in quiet. When I’m nearing a transition, I often hit a pause button, and take a step back. I do this because most of the time, I’m doing a lot of different things and going in many directions; some it is out of necessity, but most of it is because I’m distracting myself. So, if you’re feeling stuck, you’re dealing with a specific mental health issue, you feel like you’re in a funk, or you’re feeling off balance, and you have no idea which direction to go in, just pause.
Give yourself the room to step back even if it’s just for a few hours over the course of a few days. Go for a mindful walk, journal, or just sit in quiet space disconnected from all electronics at the same time for a certain allotted amount of time for three days in a row. The world will go on and life will go on even if you go off the grid for a little bit of time each day. Use that space to think about the things that make you happy and how you can pursue those things. You may also want to read motivational text or listen to inspirational thought leaders. You may also choose to schedule that as sessions with a coach who can help you get to the answers you’re searching for and also be a reason why you block out time in your schedule to do the work. That may mean changing your schedule, letting some things go, and reprioritizing others, but the only person who can make those decisions is you. Give yourself permission and room to figure those things out.
How to live your purpose with projects and without limitations:
To wrap-up, let’s review the main points:
- Your purpose is to be who you are by choosing projects that are aligned with who you are so that you live authentically.
- Extremely successful people live life as a series of projects.
- The only person boxing you in is you.
- An overwhelming majority of the things you worry about never manifest, but they do hold you back from stepping outside of the box.
- Pay attention to and reframe mindset limitations.
- Schedule time to take a step back and evaluate where you are, who you are, what you really want, and how you can get there. Block it out on a calendar for at least three days in a row.
If you love the idea of putting the time in to work on purpose and projects, but you’re overwhelmed by even the thought of doing it, email me and let’s chat.