There’s nothing like Thanksgiving for bringing the need to appreciate and acknowledge the things in life that we value to the forefront. This time of year, it is often customary to take at least a moment to reflect on things for which we are grateful. We might even come right out and say it out loud to those around us and closest to us. This is a big departure for many. . . as we run through life at Mach 3 with our hair on fire.
Yeah yeah. But what does that have to do with transforming our lives after our athletic careers have waned? AH! I’m so glad you asked. This isn’t just another Thanksgiving Greeting Card…there’s some meat to this idea. Here’s my experience.
After leaving my athletic career, there was a lot of asking, “Now What?!” and “Who am I when I am not Nancy the Swimmer?” I tried a number of ways of dealing. First, ignoring and denial of my swimmer self (Not very successful). Then there was living vicariously by being a swim coach (probably the most frustrating than any of the approaches I took). There was the diversion approach (trying new sports to see if I could fill that void-a different shade of denial), then returning to straight up denial and avoidance. Nothing seemed to work. I was baffled. At times, I felt completely defeated (again, not the feeling I was going for).
I had no idea where to turn next. Then, as luck would have it, some 20-odd years later, I found myself in a situation where I could share some of the stories about my swimming career with a kind audience. I spoke of the highs, the lows, and the emotion and excitement of swimming. I shared my greatest accomplishments as well as my greatest losses and short-comings. It was in this process that I slowed down enough and took a hard look at what it was that swimming offered me over the years. It was my Thanksgiving, if you will, for my swimming career.
I realized though this process, the skills and attributes that are at the heart of ME, that aren’t just available when I am swimming, but are available at all times to all aspects of my life today. I recognized and acknowledged my courage, tenacity, dedication and work ethic. I remembered the fierce competitor – the never say die! I can do anything-inside me. I also found the compassionate comrade and the dedicated team player. By looking back and seeing these aspects of myself once again, I was able to take an inventory of some of my greatest characteristics. . . characteristics that I both wanted and needed to find a new outlet for. If these are the areas where I am most adept and feel the most whole, and I wasn’t finding a way to tap into them and live them fully, then it was time for change.
Just recognizing the disconnect between the characteristics of my athletic self and the way in which my life had evolved without effectively tapping into these characteristics was a huge step forward in my journey.
I challenge you to take some time to reflect on your athletic career. Here are some questions to get you on your way.
- What were your greatest victories? Your greatest defeats?
- What aspects of your athletic life do/did you value most? Which served you relentlessly in sports?
- Which of these characteristics are you using in your life today?
- Where are there disconnects between that energetic and fulfilled self and your life today?
Sharing your stories and discoveries with others can give this transformation process a powerful boost. I invite you to share your stories and discoveries here!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving – oh and enjoy the holiday as well!