You know those daily tasks on our to-do lists that seem to bog us down? We have to do this or that… staying busy is the way of life, it seems. But what if we could change that perspective about what you’re doing in the moments that make up your life? As an athlete, in particular, we often feel tired and overwhelmed… but what if we could feel excited and motivated instead?
I had a really unique experience as a volleyball player because I got to play Division I volleyball in a Power-5 conference, and then (ahem, five years later), got to play two seasons at a top-10 Division II program. I’ve seen both and would choose both for different reasons again. (I may write more on this at a later date- interested?)
Anyway, the point of me say that is that, when I first went to college, I chose Division I. (For whatever it’s worth, I always says say, “When I first went to college,” because I first went, then I didn’t go, then I “went back to college.”) At first, I wanted the bustle. I wanted the football, the traditions, the support staff, and the ease of explaining where the heck I went. I wanted the resources and networking. The truth is, you can get many of these things on every other campus, but I was tired and stubborn.
But, when I went through it all, the excitement quickly turned to burn out. And then to dislike. Then dread. Then surrender. If you’ve followed me these last three posts, you know what happened soon after…
When I got the chance to go back to play college volleyball, to say that I was “pumped” would be an understatement. Literally, every out-of-system drill we did (every day), every Fun-Friday workout, bus road trip, summer of camp, I was not participating out of obligation or dread. My mindset changed to one of privilege and gratitude. I was thankful to be there doing it all, so it was easy for me to remember why I was doing all those hard things when sometimes I really didn’t feel like it.
I specifically remember my teammates (always?) dreading each item on a student-athlete’s to-do list. Class (okay, I didn’t really look forward to all my classes), lifting and/or conditioning, practice, team video, serve-and-pass… all things no “regular” students got to do. This is also why I feel like we get caught up in glamorizing “busy” like it’s a bad thing. Listen, everyone is busy in different ways with different priorities. We all choose to spend our time differently, but being burnt out isn’t a badge we should strive to wear. And, to me, having a full life of things I have to do AND get to do is the best. Here’s what it looks like:
Job: I have to publish an article a day. I get to write about amazing young female athletes in a sport that has given me so much! I get to stay connected. I get to tell stories many don’t get the chance to tell. I get to work from anywhere.
Commitments with family or friends: I have to go, even if I’m tired. I value that I’m true to my word. I get to spend time with people who enjoy me and I also love.
Chores: I have to clean the floors/do the dishes/the laundry, etc. I have a beautiful home! Look at all the nice clothes I have. I can paint these walls any color I desire.
I remembered this mindset today, surrounded by 1,000 college fans and two teams of female college volleyball players. If you don’t know this, my husband is a college coach. And, on occasion, I get to travel with him and the team… like today. I watched the team put their headphones in and ride the bus, get out and go through serve-and-pass, and play in a game. They lost today, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that they’re doing it. More importantly, they get to do it. I hope they don’t take it for granted and let the exhaustive tasks get in the way.
Do you think those 18-to-21-year-old girls understood that when the time comes to end their volleyball careers, they may have regret about bad moods, grudges against teammates, days they didn’t want to be there, times they were going through the motions…? Probably not. Personally, I always regretted not finishing what I started, so I was thrilled with every second chance I could find.
We don’t realize what a moment may mean until it’s behind us. I’m not saying I know everything (I certainly don’t), but as a person who started, stopped, and re-started something (volleyball), I’m thankful for the fresh perspective from failure.
It stinks – a lot – that I might tell you, hey it’s okay if you lose, but you get to play a sport you love. That’s not exactly what I’m saying. Instead, whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re proud. If you hate it, you have a couple of options: maybe it’s time to quit; or, maybe it’s time to reassess what makes you excited – how you can reframe it in your mind about having opportunities instead of burdens?