What It Means to “Live With Purpose”

A ‘PURPOSE’ can be more simply defined as a clear intention or objective

    *Drip drip drip*

    Sweat droplets begin to roll off your face onto the rocks on the floor.   

“Come on! We only have another mile or two!” You hear your friend call out as you both press on tirelessly to ascend the mountain. From time to time, you glance upward, but for the most part, you’re looking down so you can keep moving without getting discouraged. 

“Here it is!”, they yell out as you take the last big step upward of the massive hike you just conquered. You look over the horizon at the landscape. THIS is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

    But… there’s something missing. You continue to look around. “Is this the spot”, you ask your friend, as nervous anxiety washes over you. 

“Of course it is, what do you mean? What is missing?”

As the expectation of grandeur is met with the reality of disappointment, that sinking feeling drops into your stomach. You look around in a near-panic as your breath ventilates from each exhalation. 

“Have I just climbed to the very top of the wrong mountain?” 

*alarm ringing *  

I remember it like it was yesterday; waking up at 4 am to make the three-hour drive from my brother’s home in Phoenix north up to Flagstaff—I’d still be five minutes late to class almost each day. 

In addition to my drive, my daily routine of throwing around weights in the gym to getting knocked around on the court during basketball practice followed by skill & agility sessions, I also had to attend class. But that’s not all…

I was also a point guard for my Phoenix club basketball team. This meant that after school I would commute back to Phoenix to get a game in. 

As I was in constant pursuit of my ultimate goal—to receive a collegiate athletic scholarship—you could say my head was down while I was climbing to the top of that mountain where that scholarship awaited me. 

And then…it happened. I leaped from my chair in the middle of my economics teacher saying something about a supply curve—nothing would stop me from expressing the joy I felt about my first college athletic scholarship offer. I had arrived at “the top” of my mountain.

All my work had paid off. This was the moment I had been waiting…no I’d been working for. Little did I know that the weeks to follow would be the most confusing of my life. 

Once the thrill of victory and buzz of excitement about the scholarship wore off, a reality I had been blind to had sat in—I did not care to attend the school who’d offered me the scholarship. In fact, I wasn’t certain I even wanted to play basketball anymore. I had gotten to the top of the wrong mountain, and I was “burnt out ”.

    The unfortunate truth; this story is all too common for athletes; and now, as a professional working with youth athletes I can see the signs and symptoms of burnout long before it fully sets in. 

And regularly, I can address burnout with one question: What is the purpose behind playing your sport and as well as for practicing for it? 

I thought I was sure about what I wanted, but I found out later than was optimal that I was really seeking an identity in a world where an identity is desperately needed. 

It doesn’t take more than a Google or YouTube search to find programs that help an athlete improve their performance for their sport. However, how often will athletes be presented with an opportunity to understand why they play the sport to begin with? 

Or, how often do they consider or ask themselves what they expect from the sport, or where they plan for the sport to take them? The answer is: they don’t, at least not often enough. 

Athletes will always find the next training program that levels up their athleticism or the next traveling club team that puts them in front of collegiate scouts—this stuff really isn’t rocket science. 

And while your youth athlete won’t need a rocketship to get to the top of the mountain they’re climbing; what will you do to help them consider what’s at the top of their mountain? How will you help them define their PURPOSE for being on that mountain in the first place? 

It is common for me to get a blank stare from athletes when I ask them “Why do you want to play in highschool or college”. 

As motivation can wane and as adversity in sport and life can set in, it’s our PURPOSE which provides that intangible energy force to help us break through and take that next step onward and upward. 

I’ve heard staggering responses from athletes at times regarding their purpose, from “wanting to enjoy life to the most”  to more specific purposes like “honoring a parents’ last dying wish”. 

Without a sense of purpose, the climb to the top can be little more than pain and discomfort; and, even worse, as we ascend to the mountaintop without purpose, how will we know what to look for when we get there? 

However; with purpose, we can assign that pain and discomfort to something more meaningful that just the pain and discomfort—purpose helps us identify what matters most to us. And as we breach the final crest to the top, it’ll be our purpose which provides the view that fulfills our heart and provides the sense that we did it. 

When gearing up to climb the biggest “mountain” of your life, make sure you’re climbing the right one and taking time along the way to enjoy the ‘view’. 

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