How To Find Fulfilment In Life After Sport
Why is this question so important? Why do athletes need to find another passion or fulfilment after retiring from sport? Simple. Because most your life you’ve been performing at the highest level in a sport you love and enjoy. You’ve been chasing a dream, a goal and it makes you feel alive, it’s a rush, it gives you purpose and meaning. The blood, sweat and tears are worth it because not only do you enjoy the process, you love the rewards that come when you win – fan admiration, money, gratitude, personal growth & confidence, feeling of being on top of the world! When you stop playing, you no longer have anything to dream about, to chase, passionate goals to set…no fulfiment which can be a slippery slope to loss of identity, feeling of sadness and being stuck in a rut!
Here are some action steps you can take to keep the momentum of passion & fulfilment rolling or if you’re an ex-athlete needing to find that winning feeling & excitement back:
This is a non-negotiable! If you can’t accept that you’re retired, you’ll never move on and always be living in the past in a state of anger. Be grateful! Tony Robbins says it best “you can’t be simultaneously grateful and angry it’s impossible!” Be grateful that you actually lived the life of a professional athlete. Most people dream of being pro athletes, yet less then 1% do it…you did it! Accept that your dream career has ended and you must do something else. Accept the challenge of finding another a career and the fact that passion & fulfilment doesn’t grow on trees and that it’ll take you a while to find it! Learn to do something you don’t love, most people do, it’s slightly sad but true. However, the truly happy people find passion & fulfilment even in a job they don’t love. Not saying you’ll hate your next career, but know even if you do, with patience you will find passion & fulfilment.
Try and do lots of different things. If you’re like most athletes, you probably have no idea what you want to do next. Well, there’s no point of sitting there thinking about it, just start doing lots of different things and learn along the way. Apply for 10 jobs a day, not sure what? There are plenty of jobs athletes are highly suitable for and plenty of resources to guide you and help you find jobs. Take university & tafe courses to up-skill yourself. If you’re not sure which classes to take, apply for multiple and narrow your focus to one or two as you start learning more about your post-sport self. Again, your focus won’t narrow overnight, it it’s a long road, but with persistence, perseverance and the right attitude you will find the one job, or one course suited to you long-term. Look for volunteering jobs & internships – reach out to your or your team’s sponsors. Get involved with the community and start networking – join the local chamber of commerce, get in touch with schools and see how you can give back, attend different business meet-ups.
Be A Sponge
Especially in the first 4 years after retirement, you’ll most likely try various different jobs, come up with multiple business ideas, start and quit different projects (if you do it’s completely normal and highly desirable), it’s highly important you pay attention and soak everything in. You might be a chef but within 2 weeks realize it’s not what you want to do – good! You’re starting to figure out what you like and don’t like. However, stay and be a chef for another couple months, watch and learn how the other chefs interact with customers, communicate with their peers…in fact buddy up with the most successful chef and find out their daily habits & routines and what makes them successful. You might work in a sales job you hate and want to leave right away….don’t! Learn the good habits off the best sales person, build yourself a network, learn the best processes and start understand the shit processes! Because what you learn now, will 100% help you in the new passion once you find it. Start listening to podcasts, reading non-fiction books, learn as much as you can every chance you get. Is your new work commute 1.5 hours each way?? Awesome!! You have 3 hours each day to learn something new!
Align Your Values & Skills
As you start doing and learning, you’ll begin to understand what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at (your skills). You will also start coming up with a set of values & beliefs you live your life by (if you already know these, all power to you). Another way people like to announce their values is through their “why.” They key to finding fulfilment is aligning your values with your skills. For example – Tony Robbins values helping others and he’s really good at public speaking so he combined the two to become a motivational speaker. Another highly specific & narrowed example – I value the experiences & fraternity I built as an athlete and strongly believe athletes can be powerful in a corporate environment, I’m also a good salesman therefore I started athlete2business – selling how the skills & attributes of ex-athletes can benefit corporations. The only way to know your skills and narrow your values & beliefs & your why is to do and try different things with an open mind and positive attitude.
Start A Side Hustle & Project
If you can’t find fulfilment in your 9 to 5 or post-sport career/job take matters into your own hands – start a side hustle in that passion or dream you have. Don’t have one? There are plenty of resources out there with thousands of side hustle ideas. Currently in the U.S. there are 40 million people with side projects, from web development and online retailers to service and consulting businesses. It’s a great way to try a variety of different projects with absolutely nothing to lose, as you still have your full time job to fall back on which is worse case scenario…best case scenario, your side project takes off and it becomes you full time source of income. If anything, it can be an extra source of revenue for you. However, as it is a side project you need to make sure you don’t burn out so it needs to be something you’re passionate about or love doing. You become more fulfilled & focused on your full time job as you start looking at it differently – it’s the source that funds your side hustle! It’s also important to note that your purpose doesn’t have to align with your career.
The fulfilment you’re looking for doesn’t have to generate you income. It can just be a side passion, completely separate from your career – you might want to help the homeless, volunteer at the zoo, travel, bake, do a triathlon…it doesn’t generate income, but it brings purpose & fulfilment, which is completely fine and your full time job then becomes the source that funds your side passion. This might make you more productive & engaged in your full time job.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
It’s cliche but true – “you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with.” If you have negative people in your life dragging you down, start avoiding them. If you’ve recently retired from sport because it’s time to move on and you know it’s not good for your future to keep playing yet you have friends & family urging you on to keep playing, calling you names for retiring, avoid them! Ignore them! Align yourself with people who support your move, who are doing the same as you and groups who help athletes with the transition into a post sport life. If you know what field you’d like to get into next, seek a mentor within that field. Even if you’re not sure what you’d like to do next, finding a mentor is a great way to help you figure out your next move and hold you accountable – keep in mind, once you retire there’s no more coaches, physios, agents supporting you, you’re on your own. If not in person, there are plenty of “mentors” you can follow – Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Lewis Howes, Gary V, Pat Flynn, Ed Mylett and much more! Keeping an open and clear mind is key, so not only surround yourself with positive & inspirational people helps, but meditation is a great way to achieve mental clarity.
Avoid The Money Trap
If you’re doing well in a job you hate, getting a promotion or a higher offer from a competitor will not help! It will just amplify the problem even more as you will be given more responsibility & duties in the job you hate. Yes, initially you might be on a high as you’ve just earned more money, but this too will wear off and you’ll go back to hating it. Understand why you hate the job – it could be your boss, the company culture, the commute, your values don’t align with the company’s (back to culture). However, the most common reason why an ex-athlete might hate their job is it simply doesn’t fulfill them. A promotion or higher offer from a competitor is great, but don’t expect to find fulfilment in it. As Tony Robbins (clearly someone I follow) says, “success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure!” So don’t fall for that trap!
So in summary, retiring from sport doesn’t mean it’s the end of a passionate & fulfilling life, it’s just the end of that chapter of your life and a beginning of a new passion…a new exciting adventure! With patience, a positive attitude and aligning your values with your skills, this new chapter can be even more exciting and fulfilling then your old one!