How to find the right passion and purpose in sport
A passion, purpose, inspiration. When I first interview an athlete, I listen intently for the why behind a race/event/adventure goal. What is it that inspired you to set that goal? The why far outweighs the practicalities such as training history and race experience. If the why is strong enough, what the athlete may lack in knowledge or fitness can surely be overcome. If the why is lacking, no amount of fitness or race experience can overcome it.
Some years choosing a goal to pursue will be easy, while other years the path forward may be unclear. Here are three core tips to reflect on to ensure the fire in the belly stays strong.
Choose something that will make your daily routine enjoyable, inspirational, and fun.
A goal that makes the day-to-day training inspiring and fun is a goal worth pursuing. Of course, there will be days where type 2 fun prevails and motivation is low, but overall you should be excited to do the training. There is no guarantee you will achieve your goal, and even if you do, that on its own will not bring you long term happiness. Satisfaction in your daily routine and lifestyle however will.
Be open to following an unexpected path.
I have had many athletic lives – first as a competitive swimmer, followed by triathlons and road running, then ventured into trail and road ultramarathons, and now a passion to explore in orienteering and adventure racing. At each of these junctures where I moved from one identity to the next, there was quite a lot of resistance. I mourned the end of my swimming life after college where I had no idea how I was meant to fill the 25 hours / week that I used to spend in a pool. I raced triathlon for longer than I should have considering I despise racing my bicycle. However resistant and sad I was to end one sport and take up another, hindsight revealed it to be all for the best. With each turn, I found new passions, and different ways to approach sport, competition, and my relationship with the outdoors.
Don’t feel pressure to follow a traditional path in sport. The most important aspect in choosing to pursue a sport is your curiosity, enjoyment, and passion to do it.
Find a community that fuels the fire.
At the end of the day, you will remember the people more than the miles, medals, or times. If your why includes a community of people that you enjoy spending time with and that inspire you to be a better person and athlete, then it is a goal worth pursuing.
Sometimes the why is simple and easy to follow. Other times, the road to find it is long, arduous, and riddled with doubt. If you find it hard, focus on the daily routine that you enjoy and finding your community. There is no timeline you have to abide by – the answers will reveal themselves over time.