Applicable, coincidentally, for non-ballers too…
For as long as I’ve been able to hold some philosophical thoughts in my head, my life mantra has been balance. However, contrary to how one might instinctively interpret the word – envisioning a classic scale with two sides in perfect equilibrium – that’s not what I’m aiming for. Life isn’t a flat line kind of ride. There are ups and downs; instances of great sorrow and rage, followed by moments of overwhelming joy and peace. The purpose is not necessarily to try to control the occurrence of these emotions; they’ll arrive regardless. It’s to realize how to breath through those moments, realizing that nothing is permanent, and then returning to some semblance of equilibrium. There will be moments of extreme action and busyness, but we can accept those moments because we know how to return to our source of balance. And that equilibrium will not be the same for everyone. Take the example of the perennially busy person who seems to be always on the go. Looking from the outside in, one could get tired just from taking a glance at their schedule, but if they have the necessary checks and balances set in place for their level of stamina, they’ll be in good balance.
Where does basketball come into the equation? Now, if you’re not a basketball player or an athlete, you can simply replace “basketball” with whatever takes up the majority of your time or focus. It’s often work, but for many people, women especially, it can be family. Great things happen when you focus your energy into one thing – there’s something to be said about concentrated effort. However, the flip side of that is having such a narrow focus that it’s to the detriment of your wellbeing and development in other areas of your life. Furthermore, when we base our entire identity in being an “athlete,” “sales rep” or “daughter,” we are left with an identity crisis when that role ends or changes (and they all will in one way or another). How do we arrange our lives so that we achieve a balance, undefined by one thing? How do we maintain a sense of self and avoid draining ourselves?
The first thing I’d suggest for non-athletes is to find a way to get in some physical exercise. The results are incredible: increased energy, increased self-worth (both as a result of having a strong and healthy body, and as gratitude for your commitment to yourself and your health). It also enables you to carve out time for yourself multiple times throughout the week. For those who have exercise – or rather, physical exhaustion – built into their daily programming, rest and recovery is paramount to success. If you’re not stretching every day (pick your time of day: morning, after practice, before bedtime), you heighten your chances of injury. Tight muscles and inflexibility are precursors to unhappy tidings.
Making a habit of stretching is an excellent segway to the addressing the inflexibility and hectic-ness in our minds. Whether it be yoga, meditation, prayer, silent reflection or journaling (or a combination of all), we need an outlet for the 50,000-70,000 thoughts* going through our mind every day. By being intentional with this practice, we learn more about our thought processes. We catch a clearer glimpse at what we are struggling with, what we should pay more attention to, and how we react to certain situations or comments. The first step is simply noticing these reactions and the havoc they wreak inside of us mentally, emotionally, and often times physically as well. As we progress in our chosen practice, we realize we’re able to address our default reaction head on and change those knee jerk responses into a more fruitful responses, subsequently making us better people and better athletes (or teachers or paramedics or office workers, etc).
My second suggestion is quite basic at first glance. It requires little effort, some time, a relatively small budget and it results in exponential growth: READING. It can be books, articles or studies, but there’s something intentional and wholistic about reading a full book. It actually doesn’t matter what subject matter you’re into, but the intake of knowledge will widen your world and your aptitude for what life brings to you. If I were to give one word of advice, it would be to include non-fiction in the rotation, because, although good fiction can paint a wonderfully vivid and moving encapsulation of the human experience, we observe similar events in our day-to-day life if we’re paying enough attention. Therefore, to maximize your time, I’d recommend non-fiction in your areas of interest. If it doesn’t interest you, you won’t read it; so find something intriguing! And don’t say there’s no books that interest you. With all the books and articles published in the world, that’s flagrant self-deception.
My third suggestion would be to go out and get involved in your community. If you have the freedom and time to travel (even if it’s to the next province/state over), do that as well! Being exposed to other cultures, traditions and world views is truly revelatory. When we are connected and immersed in something greater than ourself, whether it be our immediate community or the greater global community, we are forced outside of ourself and, as a result, stop taking ourself so seriously.
At the end of the day, it’s just a game we play (or a job that we work in or a role we play). By putting things into perspective, we take a certain amount of pressure off of ourselves and are allowed to just be. Interesting fact: the tighter we hold on to success, the less likely we are to achieve it.** By embracing multiple avenues of wellbeing, the important parts of life become more clear: our personal growth and development, our impact on those around us, and our contribution to the betterment of our society and world. By interweaving these diverse parts together, we become more than what we do for a living, we become the person we choose to be.
An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience. – James Baldwin
*General estimate by experts of how many thoughts we have each day. The number tends to vary widely depending on who you ask. This number should be taken with a grain of salt as the definition of a thought is yet to be agreed on. It’s tough to count something without knowing what it is.
**Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck