Well, we are in our bye week and time to finish “Living the Journey.” Recapping “Part I” of this series, we discussed how the season is a journey and one that can relate to us regardless of our circumstance or profession. As one of my great friends always says, “Sports is just a way for us to practice life before we live it.” Each season during the summer, our program conducts a C.O.R.E. Leadership Trip (Creating Ownership, Relationships, and Expectations) that encompasses 7 different exercises which culminates with the new team’s vision and mission statement. On this trip we like to illustrate the journey of the season and importance of trust by taking our players white water rafting. There are several parts of the river that can challenge your trust, courage, coach-ability, and faith in others. The exhilarating 5 mile trip on the rushing white water also provides so many key points that we can apply to our teams, personal life, family, or faith. We decided to break this trip down in two parts to give encouragement and challenge you for the better. In ‘Part I” we geared up, took a bus ride, boated in, and took on some challenging rapids. Today in “Part II” we are going to discuss Halftime, Avoid Complacency, and Finish Strong!!
Halftime…. It is halftime, a bye week of life, or possibly just a brief pause in the grind of life. A time where you reflect or begin to evaluate your experience, performance, and mindset. On the river, there is a breaking point in the middle of the trip. A time to relax and let your adrenaline settle down for a few brief minutes. At this point the river is calm and has a steady moving stream. The boat guide then gives everyone permission to jump out into refreshing cool water. People do flips, cannon balls, and scream with joy as they propel into the water. You lay back and float with your eyes on magnificent beauty of the mountains. One may even see an eagle soaring above with the baby blue sky as a background. You begin to think about the challenges you have faced on the river and what could be next. Players laugh with their teammates and they discuss their experience to this point. They did not know what to expect before the trip but now feel slightly knowledgeable and reflect on what to do better moving forward. Some boat crews have navigated successfully while others have failed the rapids in the first half. They have a choice to seek improvement and to refocus their energy regardless of their performance…
- Team Journey… We are at the midpoint or bye week of the season and are in the process of evaluating our team. A time where teams heal, development, and prepare for the rest of the season. You have a week to look back, improve, and refocus the team mindset. Every team like every boat has a different process to reach their potential. The water is not going to flow the same for everyone and we all have challenges to overcome. Some teams reach this point having experienced success or perhaps great disappointment. Achievement does not mean arrival and can lessen one’s urgency for personal development. While disappointment can result in great urgency to change or giving up on your standards all together. A team could possibly be undefeated or completely defeated; while not having their true attitude reflect their record. Does this mean that true success is present or absent? Some teams with the best attitude and work ethic have not experienced result oriented success. Success is found in striving for excellence regardless of outcomes; this takes courage, mental toughness, integrity of heart, and fortitude. I love our team and am so thankful for their attitude each day. As coaches we can often be laser focused on not being at the top of the staircase, instead of celebrating how many steps have been achieved. Celebrating the steps give you the foundation for continued or later success. Do not give up on your process regardless of your record. The season is a journey and our best is to come if we do not give up. We can constantly focus on the end result and disregard the real victories that are being won in the heart. So what do we choose? We have to recognize the improvements and refocus, but must learn to Celebrate The Better. Know that the Small Victories will eventually add up to Large Ones for a Great Purpose.
- Life Journey… We live in a world that seems to always be moving fast and pressure packed with stress. Just like how the river is at a rapid pace until we finally reach a brief calm on the journey. The challenges are non-stop with such pressure to be successful that we can seemingly become addicted to stress. We become so accustomed to the internal pressure that we become stressed about not being stressed. We can feel that we always need something to focus on or possibly worry about. I can often complain about this type of life, but then do not know how to respond when it is not present. Our challenges could be our job, family life, personal issues or a combination of each. When we can reach a calm in our daily journey, take a deep breath and learn to celebrate the victories in our lives. Thankfulness and gratitude bring us an adrenaline shot of joy. Don’t beat yourself up because you worry about important issues in your life. You should celebrate the fact that you CARE so much! Know that it is ok to not be ok and lessen the unneeded stress on yourself. You may have failed over and over again but you have learned something new in each attempt. Celebrate the fact that you do not give up. Celebrate the internal success that is found in courage, mental toughness, integrity of heart, and fortitude. Celebrate the blessings you have daily and name them out loud. Live in the truth and know that peace comes from the truth… The truth that God Loves You, He will always be there for you, and he has a plan with great hope. Flip your thinking and learn how to celebrate the better… How far you have come in this life…. Build on the positive.. Whatever challenge you are facing.. Victory has already been claimed and celebrate that day in advance…
“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” -John 5: 6-8
Avoiding Complacency… Floating down the river in just your life jacket is completely awesome! However, you do realize that enormous rapids are ahead and you cannot float forever. The next challenges are coming whether you get back in the boat or not. At some point, the raft guide is going to say “It is time to get back in the boat.” You have to physically swim back to the boat and have the guide pull you back in. You know the only way to be successful is on the boat with your team. Each crew member has to decide on their own to rejoin the group. As you fall in the boat, you quickly scramble back to your seat, lock your feet, and grab your paddle. As everyone is finally back on board, we all refocus and open our ears to our guide for the critical instructions of what lies ahead…
- Team Journey… Every team reaches a point where practice and the routine of the season can seem monotonous. This occurs regardless of your team’s success or failure. We need coaches and teammates to hold us accountable and we have to be willing to reach out and accept help or guidance. Your current level of success or failure does not change the need for genuine accountability. Success can allow the ego to believe that boundaries are extended, rules may not apply anymore, and a little complacency is acceptable. Failure can make one believe their results are not fair and circumstances are holding them back from success. Either mindset can lead to compromising process, values, and integrity for short term gain. Having an intentional plan or process for improvement is key to long term success. Ask yourself: “What do I need to continue for success or change to avoid future or past failure?” It takes a team to be successful and we are better together not apart. Remember you have no control when moving in floatation mode. You are going to have to swim back, reach out for a ride, and be willing to conquer together. The next challenge or rapid is coming whether we are in the boat or not. Do not lay in your success or failures. It is time to get back in the boat! If you want to get better, you cannot lay in your circumstances, you have to pick up your mat and walk!
- Life Journey… Every person reaches a point where the routine of life can seem monotonous or feel overwhelmed from the constant challenges. You could be bored, complacent, or just flat worn out from the grind of life. This can occur regardless of your current circumstance, success, or failure. We need people in our lives to hold us accountable and we have to be willing to reach out and accept help or guidance. Long term success is found in a continual growth process. Imagine that your life was a Fortune 500 Company that comprised of the departments mind, body, spirit, family, friends, and professional growth. I guarantee you would want to obtain the best resources for each department in order to be the most profitable company in the world. If any one department is not striving to be its best, then the company will suffer to some degree. Yet in real life, our egos get in the way of allowing people in to make us better or give us healing. Your company would never reach its highest level if qualified people were not present in your spiritual life, physical health, mental health, professional growth, friends, and family. Do not be afraid to place people in your boat that fills a void in your life. Give them a paddle and allow them to row beside you. It takes a team in this life to be successful and we are better together not apart. Remember you have no control when moving in floatation mode. You are going to have to swim back, reach out for a ride, and be willing to conquer together. Personally, when I am struggling the sooner I swim back to my heavenly father the better; he always pulls me back in, gives me the right instruction, and has never guided me down the wrong path. Having an intentional plan or process in each area of your life’s company is key. Ask yourself: “What do I need to continue for success or change to avoid future or past failures?” The next life challenge or rapid is coming whether we are in the boat or not. Do not lay in your success or failures. It is time to get back in the boat! If you want to get better, you cannot lay in your circumstances, you have to pick up your mat and walk!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7
Finishing Strong… The great thing about the river is that the best and most challenging rapids are at the end. There is a series of big time white water that concludes this incredible trip. Even though they are the toughest, everything on the river has prepared you for the ending. At the beginning of the journey, no one really knew what to expect and were unsure or a little afraid. At this point each boat crew is prepared, confident, and unafraid. However, this is also when we experience the strongest pull to lose focus, not pay attention to instruction, and feel too comfortable. The strongest pull against you always happens right before the greatest Victory. If we execute as a team, the greatest challenge will become the greatest Victory.
- Team Journey… As each team goes through the season, know that it is preparing everyone for something bigger than we can imagine. Regardless of your current or final scoreboard record, there is an even greater victory ahead. Sports is all about statistics and analysis, but the true measure will be how the team experience helped develop everyone for the game of life. As stated in the opening paragraph, “Sports is just a way for us to practice life before we live it.” We preach to our team to be our best so we can merely compete at our highest level. This mindset does not guarantee success but gives us the best chance to win. We also make it clear that the season is like a staircase and we should be at our best at the end. Getting to the top of the performance staircase may mean a few steps backwards or plateauing, instead of always moving upward. It is important to know that this is okay, as long as you do not give up and continue the climb. Failure is never final and success never means true arrival. If you give up then you will never give yourself an opportunity to even be competitive. Our on field record will be a reflection of a lot of factors and some we cannot control. However, what we can control can give us our best chance to have our highest level of success. If we do not maximize the now, we will not maximize our future. I have many players come back years later and say how much they use the values from our team daily. How these values continue to help them be successful in their jobs, as a husband, and as a father. If we give up, then we miss out on the essential values taught in team sports that will help us for the rest of our lives. A sport season lasts a few months, our life season will hopefully last for many years. The values we learn, will not only help us be successfully individually, but will increase our impact for others exponentially. Do not give up right before your best is revealed. Do not give up before your greatest Victory. You could experience it this current season or in the real life season in the future… The Victory lies ahead if we fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race!!
- Life Journey… As we go through our seasons of life, know that each situation is preparing us for a purpose much bigger than we can imagine. We live in a very competitive world and results, opinions, likes, and comparisons seem to always be the major driving force. Regardless of your current status or circumstance, know that there is a greater victory ahead. The great rapids in our lives are preparing us for success beyond ourselves. We don’t go through anything just for us, so we can only be successful. Our own personal development is important, but it is really meant to be used to help the people in our lives. However, during our most challenging times is when we experience the strongest pull to lose focus, to give up, to give in to opinions, or choose avoidance. Remember, the strongest pull against you always happens right before the greatest Victory. My wife’s grandfather (Pop Pop), would always say these two simple words when in a struggle.. “Stand Tall”. If we stay the course and just “Stand Tall”, the greatest challenge will become the greatest Victory. If we get off the river when the water is calm, then we miss out on the best part. Jeremiah 29:11, tells us that “We have a hope for the future.” Hope for something greater ahead and knowing we can be the hope for somebody else. The “Whys” of our life are not nearly as important as ‘What is Next.” The rearview mirror may give some much needed reflection, but the windshield is a lot bigger and you can see the light ahead. Regardless of your life’s success or failure, know that nothing great ever starts out fully developed. If we give up then we miss out on the full experience for ourselves and others. Just like our team, true success is found in striving, regardless of outcomes. This takes courage, mental toughness, integrity of heart, and fortitude. Like a great song from Tauren Wells, “God is not done with you. Even with your broken heart, wounds, and scars… God is not done writing your story.” The Victory lies ahead if we fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race!!
As you finish that last rapid, your boat then just coasts to the boat landing. As you arrive, we get out and the carry our boat from the water to the bus. Everyone high fives, laughs, then boards for the bus ride back to the outpost. Riding back everyone is mentally and physically exhausted and sis in quiet reflection of the trip. We all think of how awesome the experience and how silly it was to feel so nervous beforehand. You wish you could go back to the top of the mountain and start over. However, the farther the bus drives away it becomes more apparent that we will soon turn in our helmets and paddles. As a team, I want them to know that this finality will occur at some point as well. We will have to turn in our helmets and shoulder pads just like our gear on this trip. We want to maximize our experience and leave no regret. Once it is all over, we cannot go back to the top and start again. On this trip each challenge prepared us for the next and if we handled it a properly then we will be better prepared for life after sports. As a person, ask yourself: After all the trials, adversities, and challenges in my life… Would I forfeit them if they made me a better person and am better equipped to help others because of them? If the answer is no, then get ready because you are a powerful instrument for life impact. Every challenge not only prepares us for what is next, but strengthens us for the people in our lives. Most of the big rapids we face in life are things we do not choose on our own. We have to decide if we are going to fight the good fight or continue to just lay on the mat. When you look back in reflection, let it be one of exhilaration, feeling whole, and knowing you gave your best for a worthy cause. In close, when I arrived back at the outpost, I picked up the pen in the picture below and its inscription spoke loudly. From here on out, we each have a clean pad of paper each day, and we can choose what story we are going to write. Something is going to be written one way or another, so why not choose to INK JOY!
So Take a Deep Breath, Celebrate the Better, Do not be Afraid, Place people were you have a Void, Know that Victory has been Claimed in Advance, Do not lay in your Circumstances, Take Control of your Story, and Decide to INK JOY!!