Every Monday, I’ll post about discovering genuine hope and authentic answers for living a healthy life.
Are the Olympics about security, identity, belonging, purpose, or competence?
They’re about all five.
The athletes must be secure in themselves – their talent, experience, and training. Self-doubt will only distract them. They must be secure in their coaches and teammates. Doubting their sincerity and support would be disastrous. They must also be secure in the judges or they wouldn’t have gotten this far. To be distracted by coaches or the system wouldn’t bode well.
Their identity is clearly wrapped up in their sport and their excellence within their sport. That’s understandable and essential for this season because identity controls behavior. However, if they don’t know other things about themselves – and appropriately celebrate those – they’ll be terrified to retire and may never recover from having to move on from this identity.
Making the team and belonging to the team is huge. Even those athletes who don’t win medals will always be able to say they were Olympians. That’s a unique belonging they’ve earned. They need to support each other at the same time that they compete against each other. After all, more than one team member is often in the same event. It takes a unique confidence and camaraderie to handle that relationship.
One of the reasons Olympians need to have a broader identity than “athlete” is so they can have belonging away from the gym, pool, or court. Our belonging is heavily influenced by our talents, strengths, and interests. But, we have more than one set of talents and we can also find our belonging in our beliefs, differences, and trustworthy friends and relatives that we may not even have much in common with. If they don’t work to expand their relationships, a deep loneliness awaits them.
Purpose is defined by the “Why am I alive?” question. I wonder how some Olympians answer the question. Some might simply say, “To do my best.” Others might respond with “To make the finals.” Some would clearly respond with, “To win a medal.” or even, “To win gold.” Does it matter? Absolutely!
Purpose drives competence: What do I do well? When people’s purpose is “to win” they’ll be more motivated to develop and strengthen all necessary competencies. And, just as all our five core needs influence the others, competence influences purpose. When our competencies are strong, it’s more likely that our purpose will be “to win” vs. “to do my best.”
For Olympic athletes to make it in life, they better have additional purposes and competencies. Or, they better be willing to discover some after their competitive years are over. If they don’t, life will certainly disappoint them.
The same thing is true for us. If we ever try to meet our five core needs in one thing, we’re at great risk. When that one thing fails us, we’ll feel like failures. Act like it. Live like it. It’s unnecessary. This pain can be avoided.
Reread the post. Think of yourself instead of the Olympians. Ask yourself if your identity is too narrow. If it is, what could you do to broaden at least one or two of the core needs now?