Jun 24

The Truth about Life after Sports: My take on Former Pro Athlete Mental Health

While it’s a challenging experience it is a very positive process! Let me explain…

 
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Many former pro athletes experience some kind of identity death after their sports career. While it’s a challenging experience it is a very positive process!

Let me explain…

“Because time doesn’t exist, there is no ‘after death’ except the death of your physical body in someone else’s now. Everything is just ‘nows’” — Robert Lanza in Beyond Biocentrism

I like to say — there is not absolute death, only relative disappearance. I mean it in the physical sense but also on the “identity death” journey, all that happens is the disappearance of something that seemed to be familiar to you but it is no longer there in your relative experience of yourself.

Same as the quote above indicates about death, “life after sports” is another misconception of reality. 

Who said that you cannot be as excited, inspired, and fulfilled by your post sports career as much as your athletic career? 

In fact, who said that you cannot be even much more excited, inspired, and fulfilled in your next career? 

Well, the simple answer to that is, “many people.”

I hear many people say it, but the question is why you listen to them? 

Listening is one of the most important leadership qualities, but our ability to not listen at the right times is at least as valuable. 

We spend decades of our lives forming our identity but it’s only when we let go of our identity that we are free. 

Many athletes will spend countless hours working on their physical shape, some on their mindset but almost none on spiritual energy and understanding the functions of their mind. The phrase “sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical” is often said — but how often is this actually taught or lived out by athletes? 

Last week we touched on the 5 important attributes you need to focus on when creating a life and business you love and today it’s important to focus on #1, yourself. 

Yourself - Pause! Don’t be so eager to get your own agenda or point across.

Most people have a false perception of who they are and this false perception generates fear, judgment, and doubts in their lives. Why? Because through this false perception, the mind generates a false model of reality. This can often be the case for many former pro athletes and why mental health starts to decline after their pro career. 

What would it look like if fear, judgment, and self-doubt didn’t get in your way anymore?

Fear, judgment, stress, and self-doubt are always based on a wrong perception of yourself or reality followed by discriminating thinking. As long as the mind functions with this false “software” it will keep misidentifying and misinterpreting reality.

What most people refer to themselves as “me” or “myself” is mostly an activity of fear trying to gain a sense of belonging and power by identifying itself with characteristics, relationships, and objects.

Identity is just a collection of mental, emotional, and physical conditioning we perceive to be oneself and misidentified as “Me.”

This can be a very harsh reality for athletes and former athletes, because the more important our career is for us, the more we derive our sense of identity from it and never question our sense of self. 

So, who you perceive yourself to be or what you think you are, is not really who you are. And this is actually where your true freedom begins.

“We all want to be famous people, and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti 

In the same way, let’s say you’re walking outside in the dark and a long piece of rope is on the ground, your mind might misidentify it as a snake and quickly generate a fear response. 

Your mind is constantly misidentifying things and therefore generates responses like fear, judgment, stress, and self-doubt. 

Why does it perceive reality in a false way? Because it functions with the wrong “software” with the wrong understanding of its true nature.

So to master yourself, you must understand two things:

  1. The functions of the mind: If you do not understand the function of your mind, you’ll become the function of your mind. The mind is the device through which your reality is perceived and created, so you must understand the functions of fears, judgments, stress, and self-doubt of the unrealized mind in order to transcend them.

  2. The true nature of yourself: This is the ultimate source of joy, peace, and freedom.

Your life, leadership, success, and business are an extension of who you are. They are not different from you, they will go to the limits or lack of limits you have about yourself and until you transcend your limitations, they are limited to that level.

The first (and last) understanding of yourself is knowing your true nature. It is the recognition that your true nature goes beyond thoughts, perceptions, and mind-body identity.

Thich Nhat Hanh said: Wearing a smile on your face is a sign that you are a master of yourself. 

We have been taught to think in right or wrong terms and thus have the need to try to be right and avoid being wrong. 

And this precise activity takes our happiness away. As much as you need to utilize your passion, vision, and goals you also need to remember to pause and not be so eager to get your own agenda or point across. 

A mind that functions on right/wrong perception of reality is a dependent mind with a very limited capacity for true fulfillment and happiness.

Pause at times and ask yourself: Would I rather be right or happy?

grayscale photo of bench on rock formation near body of water
Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

There are only two real measures of success: a big smile and an open heart. 

Nothing is worth giving your happiness away and you cannot afford to close your heart; the cost of it is too high and there is no reward. Let them be your guide and you’ll experience a much deeper sense of success and fulfillment.

Theodor Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Right and wrong are based in comparison; comparison is always a judgmental process and judgment has its own greatest limits. Instead of looking at the world with a right/wrong perception, look at it with curious eyes. 

If while trying to be right, you lose your happiness or while being wrong you feel bad, obviously the right/wrong system doesn't work. There is no right or wrong in reality, but we have been conditioned to think and judge in this way.

The next time you notice, say — anger, annoyance, frustration, fear, self-doubt, excitement, happiness — ask yourself “why am I experiencing what I am experiencing right now?” 

See what comes up. What answers do you receive? 

The mind’s tendency is to develop dependency. You do not need to have a “stronger” mindset, but to free your thinking mind from its recurring tendencies. Instead, focus your attention on its functions so you can free yourself from the tendency of the thinking mind. 

“To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the changing of the seasons for their inconsistency.” — Kahlil Gibran

Former athletes have the leadership potential of these three very important leadership qualities, especially when they understand the function of their mind and the true nature of themselves:

  1. The impactful way of using coaching as a leader. Coaching is the most important leadership tool!

  2. The ability to lead and inspire through self-mastery as a leader. Like many of the influential social and spiritual leaders of our century.

  3. The creative tenacity all great entrepreneurs share. Great entrepreneurs, like artists, do one thing better than anyone else. They CREATE and they never stop creating. Artists use an art medium to express their love and for purposeful and conscious entrepreneurs, business is a creative expression of love

Would you want a business and life that is a creative expression of your love? That is beyond what you previously identified as? It’s possible and you are in the right place. 

With heart,

Gil·ad (eternal-joy)

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How to find the ever-present joy, freedom, and fulfillment in your life and business?

  1. Apply for private coaching with Gilad Karni.

  2. Are you a former athlete and entrepreneur? Email me about joining The Dream Team!

  3. Connect about public talks and speaking engagements.