If you have read any of my blogs, you know that I like to stress how important it is to have an awareness about your emotions, thoughts, actions, and who you are as a person. That Self-Awareness as I put it, is the most important thing that an athlete can understand [hell, it may be the most important thing that any person can understand] in order to not just perform better, but make their performances more rewarding by being truly committed to being yourself.
I bring this up because last night, after the U.S. Women swept the 100m hurdle final for the first time in history, Gold Medalist Brianna Rollins, when asked how she felt about the race, did not talk about the specifics of the race at all. She spent a good 30 seconds discussing how strong her faith was, how she prayed with her teammates before the final in a prayer circle, and how the glory in the race was not for her, but it was for God. She didn’t go into how great an athlete she was, she didn’t get into the technicalities of the race itself, she knows who she is – she is a Woman of the Lord. It is her strength and what guides her life.
I am using her as an example not to discuss anyone’s religious views, but I am however using that specific example because after hearing that statement, there is not a doubt in my mind that she understands who she is and what she stands for. Because of that belief, she is able to compete at her best – aware of the task in front of her, confident from her belief in herself, and prepared for anything that may happen.
When I have athletes start a Journey of Self-Discovery, the very first thing that we do is have them identify what their traits & values are from a list we provide them. What are the things that are important to them that make them who they are? Do they have a personal philosophy or mission statement that assists in driving their decision making?
I am not just asking them to do this exercise as time filler. I am doing this exercise because at least 95% of the people that go through this Self-Discovery process are doing it for the first time. They may be 32-year-old men who are professional athletes, but never before in their adult life have they been asked “what are the things that matter to you and what do you stand for?” And I can’t tell you how profound a moment that is when someone realizes not just who they are, but who they are not, and who they want to become.
We also ask them to write a personal philosophy. This is a three sentence statement that simply answers the question – ‘who are you?’ Again, this step in the Journey of Self-Discovery is something that if you have not done it yet, it may change the way you live your life. Many of you may have never been asked ‘who are you?’ other than when someone asks your name.
Now creating a personal philosophy is not an easy thing to do, but when you really think about it and put it on paper, it not only acts as your philosophy, but your mission statement to help remind you of who you want to be and what you are passionate about.
As an athlete, the key reason for doing all of this is because that when you are in a situation where the pressure is on, just like it was for the women in the 100m Hurdle Final, staying true to who you are and what you value can be the difference between having a personal best and false starting.
And not only is self-awareness important because it will allow you to perform with greater effort, but it may actually bring you to a place when realize what you really want to do with your life. Now granted, this may change your entire current career path or life goals – BUT WHO CARES, this is about you doing something that you love, that is your passion, and that energizes you when you think about it. It’s not about having a job or participating in a sport – it’s about making those loves and passions your job, and then doing that job to the best of your ability.
There are many things packed in this article. But, if there is one thing that I want you to take away from it, it’s this:
Don’t ever think that the best way to solve a problem or perform better is to act like someone else or do something that is not in line with what you value. The best way for anyone to do anything is to be one’s true self.
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