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How To Stop Sport Taking Your Soul: A 3 Step Guide

Uncategorized May 25, 2022

Let’s get right down to the heart of the matter.

I’m writing this based on a couple of assumptions that I have about you.

Three, to be precise.

Assumption 1

The first assumption is that you are a senior level performance practitioner of some kind; a performance coach, a physiotherapist, a sport/technical coach, a performance analyst, head of performance, performance director... in short, performance support staff.

Assumption 2

The second assumption I have about you is that you are highly driven to create a performance impact with the athletes or teams you support.

I say that on purpose ‘highly driven to create a performance impact’ because I want to stress that...

Assumption 3

Your default driver is to do better and be better and at some point in time you’ve forgotten in that process what you actually like doing in life outside of sport. You literally live to work.

The shine and tracksuit have been such powerful distractions that you now feel alone and drained by trying to maintain an image of being happy with your success in sport. The truth is you're lost in performance sport with little perspective. You're inhibited in what you do because you cling onto things that should take a backward step.

To Sum Up:

You are senior performance support staff burnt out from improving your athletes at the expense of yourself, and constantly having to take on and achieve more to prove your worth in an industry that you perceive is only 100% in or you're 100% out.

Now if I’m too far off the mark here, what I am about to say may be of too little use to keep reading. In that case I wish you the best of luck with all your continued success in sport. 

If this does sound like you, what I’m about to say to you here is going to offer you a lifeline if you choose to do the work.

I know you feel this because that's what I felt for major parts of my career in sport. The cost to me was a divorce after 18 months of marriage, multiple failed relationships and poor health leading to a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease.

This wasn't because of sport. This was because I didn't have the skillset or personal awareness at that time to deal with my inner troubles. My inability to stand in integrity to live my core values led me to be unable to set my personal boundaries. I over committed because I thought I had to give all of me. Ultimately sport gave me the perfect environment to keep driving and pushing the part of me that was seeking approval from others.

The saddest thing about this is not my story, but that my story is one of many many more that paint a very similar picture:

"I was working 6.7 days a week across a 12 month period, I wasn't seeing my kids or my wife and I hit this brick wall that made me realise "you know what this isn't right." But before that wall I couldn't see it and just thought I was leading the way to something important in sport."

Only when you've created awareness of your blind spots and let go of your identities and limiting beliefs can you go from an unstable career focused path to stability and life focussed so you're living your life rather than living to work.

If the research clearly shows the impacts of the way the industry is, the way its structured and the way that sport is perceived as so committal, what can you do from a practical perspective to stop letting sport take your soul?

How to Stop Sport Taking Your Soul: A 3 Step Guide

1. Get clear with your values so you know what direction to go

Values are the compass that allow you to choose the direction for your life that aligns with what is truly important to you. They help you construct goals that drive your actions in those directions. Whereas goals can be achieved, values cannot be achieved. Adaptive values contribute to your well-being while maladaptive values reduce well-being. 

For example you might have the value of being a good parent which may require a lifetimes‘ effort, and the specific achievable goal of being present with your children by booking in time each day to be with them and turning off your devices. Or you might have the goal of helping an athlete return to play, while placing value on doing your job to the best of your ability because you enjoy it and it motivates you to learn and grow. 

Your values reflect what you find meaningful in life. They are what you care about, deep down, and what you consider to be important. Everybody’s values are different, and they can change over time. They reflect how you want to engage with the world, with the people around you, and with yourself.

Although values are by definition considered to be important (e.g. downtime, spending time with family/partner), our behaviour is often not consistent with our values (e.g., working during evening hours, sacrificing our personal life to maintain our role etc.). These factors often consist of patterns of behaving and thinking that negatively affect well-being, producing emotions like fear, anxiety and stress.

In order to decrease the discrepancy between values and actual valued living, it is important to create awareness of this discrepancy in the first place.

Examples include negative thinking about the past, suppressing difficult emotions, and acting impulsively. Relating to your job in sport, these are the factors that can de-energize you, resulting in poorer outcomes of your impact on your athletes. When these weaknesses are used, they lead to feelings of negativity, disengagement, and lack of motivation. Simply put, the weaknesses get in the way of you flourishing in your career and life. 

2. Bring awareness to and practice developing your self esteem

The most important attitude you have maybe the one you have toward yourself. Self-esteem is the overall subjective sense of your own personal worth or value. In other words, self-esteem can be defined as how much you appreciate and like yourself regardless of the circumstances.

Self-esteem impacts your decision-making process, your relationships, your emotional health, and your overall well-being. It also influences motivation, as people with a healthy, positive view of themselves understand their potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges and have the ability to say no to protect their boundaries. If you're always looking at data late at night, this could be an area for you to consider.

Having low self-esteem tends to feel like you're less sure of your abilities and may doubt your decision-making process. This may lead into having issues with professional and personal relationships, expressing your needs and low confidence. If you're a performance coach are you having problems communicating with a technical coach? If you're a performance director are you feeling like you're micro-managing?

Having overly high self-esteem shows up by overestimating your skills and you may feel entitled to succeed. You may struggle with blocking yourself from growing as a person. This means you focus solely on professional CPD and never look at developing a deeper understanding of yourself.

Healthy self-esteem is comprised of 2 distinct components: Self worth and mastery.

Self Worth

Self worth involves the evaluation of your overall sense of self: Are you a fundamentally good person with social value in the world?

Like it or not we are social animals and the judgements we formulate of our self incorporate the judgment of others. Yet the more your own judgement of self-worth becomes internalised, the less power of others has to completely sway how you see yourself.

Mastery

Mastery involves the evaluation of your overall sense of agency: Are you an intentional being who can bring about your desired goals by exercising your will?

Of course you have greater mastery and expertise in some areas than others, but a healthy self-esteem involves not only liking yourself but also having an overall feeling that you are a competent human being - not just in your role.

3. Objectively assess the roles and identities you currently live in

"I knew I needed to make myself bulletproof and secure, but that meant stepping away from everything again. I was offered a private gig, but everyone recognises me for being involved in professional sport or I think that's the case, but no-one actually really gives a f**k now I've come to realise it. Most of it has been my own self pressure and low self worth, I've felt that the place can't function without me but the reality is they'd get rid of me in a heartbeat and I've felt everything I've been doing is unbelievable and everyone else is wrong. I never switch off because I've seen it as my life and not what it is which is just a job - no one asks me to do that by the way, I've put that expectation on myself."

Personal identity is a constellation of beliefs, feelings, images, and rules — operating largely outside of conscious awareness — that interprets sensations, constructs new explanations, and directs behaviour.

These speak to the broad concerns of identity (Who am I?), direction (Where am I going?), and purpose (Why am I going there?).

Examples — Father, partner, coach, leader, friend, athlete, son, challenger, lover e.t.c

  1. What roles/identities do you hold that appear and shape your life?
  2. Which of these roles/identities limits you?
  3. How do each of these roles/identities limit you?
  4. How do they shape your decisions; What do they have you do or not do?
  5. What would you do if you let go of that role/identity?

The work I do with men addresses very practical steps to allow them to understand themselves on a deeper level. As this journey continues to unfold, I'll share more and more practices with you to help you accelerate your process of understanding yourself through inner work.

If you are interested in working with me you can learn more about The Lost to Liberated Blueprint and book a call here.

In Kindness,

Richard

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