One of the players I coach wrapped up her high school hockey career a few weeks ago. And, while there are certainly bigger things on her horizon as she prepares to play college soccer, she found herself feeling that momentary sense of sadness we often feel when we reach the end.
The beauty of the athletic pursuit and it’s power to transform can probably best be understood as a journey. Whether the goal is to reach the top of the mountain or the bottom, the important part, the biggest part, is what happens between the two.That’s where we experience the wonderful grace of being alive. Challenges are met, courage summoned, disappointments overcome and relationships with competitors and teammates are forged along the way.
There’s obvious satisfaction in reaching the destination. Yea!! we did it. But, making the journey is what got us there. Making the journey is what makes us. Grace is not so much at the finish line as on the way. Which is why the end of the season or a career feels bittersweet.
It’s helpful to stop and look back for a moment; to reflect on what we learned, what we’ll take with us and how we’ve been blessed by taking this path. Then, when you’re ready, it’s time to pack your bags. New adventures and a new experience of that grace await. Go hard, stay focused, and enjoy the ride. Great clip below from YETI cycles on following the path.
Its hard to move gracefully when you’re going in two directions at once. Hips moving one way, shoulders another it’s hard to keep rhythm or balance. Oops, down he goes! In any sport we learn to lean into the change even if it’s ever so slightly so that we can make the change gracefully, shifting momentum and exerting power in a new direction.
I’m learning I do well to remember that in the rest of my life. Whether its an unexpected change to avoid an obstacle or an intentional step in a new direction it seems to be better to lean in the direction I want to go. Grace flows more readily when I can relax, and commit to the change. Lean in.
Joyce Di Donato hit the nail on the head this week with her commencement address at Julliard. ” You will never make it, she told the group. That’s the bad new but the shift I invite you to make is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t actually believe there is an it.”
We play and compete because it’s fun. We also do it because, for many of us it’s way of feeling connected and alive. It’s an opportunity to become more and be part of something greater than ourselves. One of the things we learn though is that grace, the thing that transforms us and our experience isn’t waiting on the other side of the finish line. It isn’t found in the record books or on the podium. Grace is found along the way in the challenges and choices we encounter and in our response.
Over time we discover that the rush that comes with the victory or the accomplishment is momentary and fleeting. As enjoyable as they are, and they can be exciting, they are not what sustains or transforms us.
Di Donato goes on to tell the graduates, ” One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself right here, right now, in this single, solitary , monumental moment in your life – is to decide without apology to commit to the journey and not the outcome.”
So, play to win? Of course. Strive to better our performance? Absolutely. Remember though, to compete means literally to journey with. To “commit without apology to the journey” and let go of the outcome – is to play with grace.