Here’s something we can all agree on: we want our lives to matter. We all want to live a satisfying, fulfilling, and purposeful life.
This isn’t just a selfish desire. I believe that feeling a certain amount of significance in your life is healthy. It’s good for the human experience. There is a healthy satisfaction that comes from contributing to the world around you. It’s important to your physical and mental health. It can even make you live longer. However, there is a problem.
Simply saying, “You need to live a life of purpose,” doesn’t really help anyone. It’s too abstract. Sure, I want to live a life of purpose and fulfillment and significance … but how do I actually translate that into action?
I certainly don’t have all the answers. (Big surprise.) But here’s one thing that has helped me recently: I’ve been thinking about my own life as a team sport. Viewing my life in this context has helped me develop a clear plan and design real action steps for living a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.
Here’s how I’m thinking about my life as a team sport and how you might find it useful as well.
Every team has a mission that it strives to accomplish. A good team measures itself by something: wins, loses, championships. There is no Superbowl of Life, but I like thinking about my life in the same way.How do you want your life to be measured? What do you want to be counted? What is a win? What is a loss?
Additionally, just as a team needs the effort of every teammate to fulfill its mission, you need the help of those around you to fulfill your mission. How will the people on your “team” help you get to where you want to go? What role do your family, your friends, and your peers play in helping you achieve these goals? What about your teachers, your boss, and your mentors?
So often we think about big questions like, “What do I want to do with my life?” without considering everyone else that we live with. Thinking about your life as a team sport forces you to realize an important lesson: your life is dramatically impacted by the people around you.
Life is a shared experience. And for this reason, the people around you need to be part of the plan. A good mission in life is always about more than just you.
Great teams have guidance and direction. They have a coach that keeps them on task, challenges them to become better, and looks for areas of improvement.
But most importantly, great teams have a coach who aligns with their mission. Teams go to great lengths to find a coach who is not only skilled, but also is a good character fit for the program. It’s important to have the right type of person to leading the team.
Just like in sports, there are coaches — or mentors — in our lives. In one way or another, you are an apprentice of your parents, your professors, your boss, and so on. They coach you towards certain habits, they teach you how to approach problems in life, and they impact what you believe about the world. Much of what you believe and how you act is determined by these people.
But unlike a sports team, we rarely take the time to actively determine if these people are a good fit with our mission in life. Imagine how much easier it would be to achieve your goals if you connected with one or two mentors who could teach you how to develop expertise just like them and their expertise aligned directly with your mission in life.
The people around us guide our behaviors in one way or another. How much easier would success be if the right people were guiding you?
For most of us, I think mentorship is the most underutilized resource we have for accelerating our success. It’s basically impossible to build a great team without a great coach. It’s very likely that your life could be the same way.
Good teams always have a captain. They need someone who can carry the banner and set the tone for the rest of the group. This happens in two ways.
Great leaders are also great teammates. They lead with their heart instead of their ego. They put the mission of the team before their needs as an individual. And they realize that it’s more important to be there for their teammates than to be revered by their teammates. Sports teams often select their best players to be captains. And there is a reason why: leaders need to be able to execute.
If you’re going to treat your life like a team sport, then you need to be the captain. (It is your life after all.) When it comes to our team, I’m still trying to become the leader I want to be. There are a couple ways that I try to be a good teammate: by writing articles that are (hopefully) beneficial, by answering emails, tweets, and questions, and by doing my best to help you achieve your goals.
Great teams have players who want greatness. This is true not only about their skills, but also about their priorities. They buy into the mission. They believe in the cause. Great teams are filled with people want the same things. And because of that shared dedication and mutual connection, they believe in each other.
In life, there are people who also want the same things as you do. What’s strange is that so often we waste our time trying to convince the people around us that they should believe the same things that we do. Why bother trying to fix people when you can just rally the people who don’t need to be fixed?
There are people around you who will also believe in your mission, whatever that might be. These people are your teammates. They connect with your values and share your priorities. That’s not to say that they believe in your mission as strongly as you do (after all, they have their own mission to chase after), but they play a role on your team. And they are happy to play that role because they also believe in your mission.
Life as a Team Sport
I love sports, so maybe it’s natural that I like thinking about life as a team sport. I played several team sports in high school and continued to do so during college. Now, my sports are biking and walking, but getting “out there” each day is so important. When you get knocked down, no matter whether literally or figuratively… get back up!
I also love this analogy because it works. I’m working hard to make life for myself and others …something worth being part of. It’s not there yet, but it’s getting there. As the year rolls on we can make more and more scores for not only ourselves, but others too.