Beautiful destinations are often reached through tough roads. This is true. You could be an aspiring athlete, an active athlete, or a retiring athlete, in whichever state you are, you will always be on a journey. But the journey will not always be filled with hearts and flowers. The road will not always be smooth. Every stage of a journey is a challenge of sticks and stones thrown at you. Every stretch of a road offers bumps and puddles. But do not fear this, because it will make the end much, much sweeter.
Worry a little less, because the following discussions will help you handle challenges you may encounter in every stage of your athletic career:
Do you imagine yourself holding that racket like Sharapova, or do you dream of kicking a ball like Messi? These daydreaming, and imaginations are visualization of your future, and it is equivalent to starting the first move. But like any other successful athlete, you must take the first step, and go beyond visualizing.
Here comes the bumpy initiation. For instance, you are now a 12-year-old boy or a 14-year-old girl, and you go for tryouts at your campus varsity for football or tennis. That is a wonderful act of initiating a step forward. But you can fail, and if you do, do you step back?
Giving up after your first downfall will pull the destination away from you. Your first downfall may not come as early as tryouts could be in your third league. Whenever it comes, take it as an initiation, as a test if you are mentally strong to handle the many more and upcoming downfalls. The best follow-up action after a downfall is to square back to visualizing. Visualize and see through the hindrances. Take actions on qualities you may lack at and keep improving your mental and physical strength.
You could add extra minutes on practice, observe your seniors, watch more games for reference, and many other things to do to improve. It is important to keep going. To know what you want to pursue and be passionate about is an advantage. All you have to do is pursue that passion. To feel skeptical and fearful is valid, but you must overcome these barriers to chase after your destination, your future.
2. Developmental Stage
You are now an official rookie to a team, and every day you strive to prove your capabilities as an athlete. Every day, you show how valuable a team member you are, and that is great. However, this is where you will feel some physical burnout that will soon lead to total burnout. Do you keep pushing when you have reached your limits?
Your body may be at its peak, but it still needs to rest. Do not abuse that youthful body and built physique, because a lot is happening to your body beyond what the naked eyes can see. You may look healthy from the outside whilst being wrecked on the inside.
Have a moment of silence to gather thoughts and clarify your purpose. Repeatedly ask yourself why you do this, and if sabotaging your health is even worth it for all this. Remind yourself that this is for your own, and not for impressing others.
3. Peak and Mastery Stage
Possesses a few medals, trophies here and there, interview on television and newspaper, constant article features... This is the peak, the mastery stage. All the hard work is paying off, both in gratification and monetary. A 25-year-old or a 31-year-old living the fame and glory that comes with success in sports. But are you genuinely happy now?
This is a crucial stage, because this may make or break the rest of your lifetime. Some spend all the money on short-term happiness. Like weekly splurge at a casino, a nightly visit at the club, and an obsession with more luscious and expensive things in life. Do they come out happy? Yes, temporarily, but it does not last.
Some continue their dedication to the game. On the grind to put their head on the game all the time, which is great, but is it necessary? Is it worth the miss out on Thanksgiving dinner just to train for the upcoming game?
Truth be told, no.
This must be the stage you try to check the finer things in life. Finer than the bronze or golden trophies, and finer than the expensive lifestyle. Family, friends, and other connections. Miss a training session, go home, see your wife, and see your parents. Make time to see old faces. Faces that have shown support throughout your journey.
This stage is no longer just about winning, it is about keeping a meaningful and good relationship with people around you, from your coaches, team members, mentors, and count in your butler and your assistant. This is about seeking for things beyond the game.
4. Bitter, Sweet Stage
And like any other element in this circular world, your career will end. Time to step out of the spotlight, and pass down the torch. But does the journey end here?
This is pretty much a chapter done, and you are about to flip the page to begin a fresh one. This stage is tough. This stage contains letting go, moving on, and figuring out. Letting go of something that has been a part of your daily routine for years. Letting go of you once called your team, your family. Letting go of that part of you that was once so fiery and alive. Letting go of your youth. Moving on from your jersey or uniform. Moving on from your everyday training. Moving on from your title. Moving on from the fact that you have grown old, and physical strength is starting to decline.
It is bitter and inevitable, the ending. You saw this coming, the day you stop playing games. You saw it from the very beginning of your career, your journey. Therefore, if you are still on the first stage, it is best to plan for this and visualize it as far as this. Imagine beyond the success of your sports career, and fill in the blanks that would come after.
But if you are currently on this stage, or approaching this stage, do not succumb to sadness and total isolation. Again, this is just a new journey, a new road, and it must be as exciting as your road to your previous destination.
This is a sweet beginning. You have an abundance of free time now. You could book a flight to anywhere as soon as you may desire. You can go from Taco Tuesday to Tokyo Thursday, and no one will stop you. It is also the perfect time to take it slow in figuring out your next step.
It may feel like you are back to zero, but it would not feel like that for long if you stay in touch within yourself. Do not slack off and get out of your bed. Build a new routine, surround yourself with positive affirmations, read personal development books, find a life coach, meet friends, meet up with your mentor, practice mindfulness, and try out meditating. Honestly, the world is your oyster.
A better life awaits. There is no holding back from this point onwards. Soon enough you will be nearer than you have ever been to the most beautiful destination, and it is going to be ecstatic and beyond fulfilling.