The Purpose Driven Life

I was having brunch with a new friend this past weekend, and we had that instant connection that surrounding yourself with good people seems to harbor.  The conversation expanded very quickly into one of great profundity.  He said something that struck me and has continued to resonate.  It was an analogy he once heard…that there are those who sit in the stands watching the game and those who play it.  Some people sit in the stands their whole lives, just watching, wondering what it would be like, to be on the field--feeling their heart drumming, tasting the salt of their sweat, hearing the internal voice driving strength and motivation into their every move.  Some people might inch closer and closer to the field throughout their lives, and even jump into a game here and there, but ultimately live in detached observation.  Then there are those who live to play.  After an interweaving of each of our life’s work, zest for existence, spiritual connection to music, nature, and people…he looked at me with recognition and awe, and said, “You are someone who is constantly in the game.”

This is the highest compliment I have ever received in such a short period of knowing someone.  I won’t outline the details of his personal life, but he made it clear that he had been inspired by me in the way I led my life.  My work is play and my play is free-flowing.  I have found my present calling by following my heart; at the same time, I am allowing unlimited space for whatever this purpose might expand to become.  I no longer hold myself captive to an idea or a vision I may have pictured at one time, but don’t entirely desire anymore, if it has in fact transformed.   We can look at life with openness and opportunity and not restrict ourselves to the rigidity of a “perfectly-mapped” plan. 

We cannot assume to know how any of the external forces around us will respond, react, or align with our actions.  We can only be responsible for what we set out to do and how we will self-adjust to the constant shifts of an ever changing universe.  The player never knows with certainty whether the current strategy will successfully come to pass.  You can only control how you will assert your efforts to drive toward what you want.  Any number of things can and will disrupt “the plan”; it is up to us to accept this fact and not allow ourselves to get tripped-up.  Whatever your current goal is, be it work-related or personal, you must focus on your supporting behaviors rather than the outcome.  I encourage you to instill purpose in your day-to-day rather than obsess over how you eventually want things to be.  After all, if you drive forward with steady dedication and authenticity, your end goal is a very likely side effect.  Then you can free yourself of worry and fear and just live your life from a place of constant action rather than examination.

There’s all this business about “following your path”…but what if we didn’t have to live in fear about messing everything up and derailing our entire lives?  What if our paths are simply where we walk next?  We create our lives, as we choose.  This is not to say we don’t set goals; I am saying quite the opposite.  It is that we lay out our own goals rather than chase approval from anyone else’s expectations of us.   And much like the players of the game, we follow the framework of a specific play, with the innate acceptance that everything may, and often will, go very differently.  That is the beauty of the game.

Knock Down the Walls of "Comfortable"

There’s a certain amount of stability we develop in our daily routines, no matter how monotonous, that stick our feet into the ground.  While this comfort feels, well comfortable, we can fall victim to believing that we shouldn’t move.  To say I am comfortable at my homebase training facility, HiFi Fitness, would be an understatement.   I know who I am going to see, how I am going to feel, and almost exactly what to expect each day.  Surrounded by brightly painted walls, top of the line equipment, and lululemon everything, I am perfectly at ease.  But was I satisfied?  Not anymore.   After hours of coaching others at a place I call home, I can lack the passion I want to bring, not only my own workouts, but also to expanding my vision for my own business.  While I have justified this position over the past couple of months, I have reached a rut; and I’ve been here before.  The avoidance of “discomfort” became a roadblock.  Winston Churchill once said “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure”.

I had almost forgotten about the place that pushed me outside of my comfort zone only 5 years ago.  I sought out a new goal in an unknown territory, in training for my first figure competition at USA Gym.  I ventured to a place that made me feel a little awkward and unsure of myself at first; but I needed that place where I was told to push harder, move faster, and dream bigger.  The gym itself was anything but comfortable:  In the winter there’s a rubber mat for members to leave their construction work boots.  In the summer, you better dress light or hope for a breeze; AC is a luxury, long-forgotten, but the garage door will be cracked and a firehouse fan will take care of your cool-down.  Bottom line, I might be the only lululemon you’ll see.  The walls are covered with trophies and signs telling you things like “pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  The soldered-off dumbbells always seem to be about 5lbs heavier than what they say—and you’re going to lift them for a few more reps than you’ve ever imagined.   The mentors I found, not to mention the very environment of USA gym, pushed me outside of complacency.  If I wanted more, I had to reach for it.  I learned to be willing to experience some sense of discomfort, if expected to achieve growth. 

This gym began to symbolize my grounds for change.   This pivotal year marked the start of my own business, completion of my first figure competition, and the start of a new relationship.  It’s where I prepared for every competition going forward and created a vision for myself that allowed confidence to permeate everything I did.  This is where I was told I was a star…and after a few years of encouragement, this is where I began to believe it.  This is where I’ve been brought to tears during a military press, thrown-up during a squat-sprint-lunge-box jump and who –can-even-remember- what-else superset, and face-planted on  “one more” push up, more times than I can count.  This is where I broke limits and discovered new possibilities.

As many of you know, I’ve been on sabbatical this year from the competition world.  This decision also took away my trips out to USA Gym.  I did not feel the need to drive 45min each way, if I was no longer competing.   Unsure of whether I’d ever step on stage again, I was excited to coach a client and dear friend, Natalie, through her first bikini competition.  After 12 months of competition-scene absence, I set foot into my old stomping grounds with Natalie this November. 

I could not have guessed what I would feel over that competition weekend.  After about 20 min of feeling detached and like a “washed up athlete” in that world, I threw my self-doubt aside.  The next several hours turned into an energetic dance of seeing old friends, talking “bodybuilding” shop, connecting business partnerships, and yes, considering my own stage revival.  I felt my confidence set fire and remembered what this group of certified gym rats meant to me!  I drove out to USA Gym within four days to train, and realized this place was never just a gym for me, it was my sanctuary. 

I realized, it doesn’t matter whether or not I choose to compete.  The pressure to be at the absolute top of your game can sometimes be debilitating—pushing yourself to be better is not about the deadline; it ‘s about the journey.  I needed to take myself out of my everyday blur and go to the place that reminds me how to dream big.  This can be a living metaphor for anything.  Very simply, after a long day at the office, when you might not have eaten your best and you start telling yourself, “I’m exhausted, so it would be a shitty workout anyway…”, check your excuses at the door.  Reach for a little discomfort.  It might just be the best workout of the week.  Even if it’s the worst, you KNOW you’re going to feel better for showing up.  Let it be a time to wash away the stresses of the day and clear your thoughts.  And on a higher plane, find your USA…that place that opens your mind, be it a location, person, activity…or all things combined.  Take yourself there and let down your walls of excuses or justification of “why not”.  It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but when you start to believe in the greater you, it will become home.

Special thanks to Chuck Sanow, Maurice Black, and the USA Gym crew