I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, because I know that when I mention the term athlete a lot of us will say “oh I’m not an athlete, this doesn’t apply to me”. I know in The Aligned Athlete community the term athlete doesn’t resonate with all of us. Whilst we might see other people in the group as athletes, they don’t necessarily see themselves as one. And I’ve found this really fascinating. Even in earlier episodes of The Aligned Athlete Method podcast you’ll notice I would quickly follow up my own experience or advice with “but I’m not an athlete”.
My mindset has completely shifted around this. I am an athlete, and you are too.
So what does it mean to be an athlete? What kind of images come up for you when I say the word athlete?
Are there particular characteristics they have?
Now I’m not going to put words into your head, but I have a feeling I know what you’re thinking right now, and I also have a feeling you might be finding it hard to relate to these images and characteristics.
A quick google search shows that an athlete is defined as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” But that definition is broad. What does it mean to be proficient anyway? I often talk about the power of language, what I might see as proficient could be completely different to your view of it. Are we only considered proficient in a sport of physical exercise when we’re at professional level? I’m arguing no.
Let’s break it down into components of being an athlete:
- Physical movement – an athlete is physically active, not necessarily competitive, but is physically active.
- Vision – athletes have a mindset that drives them to take action. It starts with a vision, that they want to strive for something greater than where they are now, whatever that looks like. They are clear on their vision and they hold themselves accountable to it.
- Determination – they are determined to improve, the speed at which they improve is irrelevant, they know they are running their own race. They know that with each step they take (literally and metaphorically), they are making progress, and they’re determined to get to where they want to go.
- Perseverance – they continue their effort to achieve their goals despite obstacles, or people telling them they can’t (for some this spurs them on more).
- Self-belief – an athlete has confidence and self belief in their abilities. They amplify their strengths and acknowledge their weaknesses.
As you can see, mindset plays a huge role in this. I believe calling ourselves athletes can play an important role in how we see ourselves and how we perform.
Kristen Dieffenbach offers a new perspective on this “There’s an intrinsic value you get in terms of a sense of pride and feeling good about your commitment. That’s the the core of being an athlete, whether it’s for a medal or just to say, ‘Yep, I did that.’”
She also says that an athlete is Someone who enjoys physical movement, she says. “Maybe you’re training. You have goals you’re trying to achieve. You’re putting the effort in.”
Are you now starting to resonate a bit more with the term athlete?
Another way to look at it is to say you’re living an athletic lifestyle, now this doesn’t just focus on performance, suddenly you’re bringing your life into this picture too. As you know, something I’m really hot on. This isn’t an either or situation. Your lifestyle, work, relationships, fitness and wellness are all interlinked not separate entities. If we consider that we live an athletic lifestyle then we’re acknowledging our daily commitment to our health and wellness, not just the effort we put in when we’re physically exercising. We also become more conscious of what we’re fuelling our body with, and how we take care of it. We start to see our body and mind as our greatest assets.
When we look from a career and business point of view then, it makes huge sense to think of ourselves as athletes, by taking care of our fitness and wellness, living an athletic lifestyle to then enhance performance in other areas of our life too.
In their company mission statement, co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, said “if you have a body, you are an athlete”. What he means is that your body was created to move. Your lifestyle depends on how well your body (and mind) work, and if we take care of our fitness and wellness, we are an athlete. I truly believe this.
When your body is functioning at its best, you can show up better for this world. You feel better, therefore you have more to offer.
So, start treating your body like you are training for your best life possible. With that mindset, you will be an athlete, and can reach your dreams just like anyone else.
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