Basketball is Psychology LII
“If you use your sport to make you a better person, you’ve won.”
- Dan Jansen
What’s a stake?
I don’t want you to get to the end of this season feeling like you just wasted a season. I don’t want you to go through this season just trying to “get through” each day. After you get through all the days this season, then what? Instead, how can you view each day as an opportunity? How do you make the most of the season when things aren’t ideal? This season is different, but it doesn’t have to be a wasted season.
How Society Keeps Score
We live in a society that values and rewards results.
Our society keeps track of:
Wins and losses
How many points you scored
If you started
Personal awards and accolades
The problem is, especially during this Covid season, a lot of that is outside of your control. Society pays a lot less attention to things within your control such as your work ethic, character, and attitude.
What if you redefined success? Society’s definition of success is winning, starting, scoring a lot of points, breaking records, and getting awards.
Our society believes winning is everything. But what happens when the games get cancelled? What happens if you get injured? What happens if there isn’t a championship to play for?
By society’s standards, success would be impossible in those circumstances, which makes no sense. That’s why we have to redefine success.
Society promises that if we win, score a lot, and set new records, then we’ll be happy. We tend to believe if our circumstances were better, then we would be happy. The problem is, it’s never enough. No matter how good or bad things are, we always wish they were better. Even if you score 50 points, you will still think about the shots you missed and how you could have scored more. Even if you win all your games except for one, you will still be thinking about how you could’ve won that game and had an undefeated season. Society’s definition of success never satisfies us or brings us lasting joy because we always want more.
We have to redefine success to something we can control and something that will bring us lasting joy and fulfillment.
We surveyed hundreds of coaches and players and asked the question, “What is the hardest part about playing/coaching in the midst of Covid?”
The most common answer: uncertainty.
Some don’t have a season at all. For some, you show up every day not knowing if there will be a sudden shutdown or cancellation. There is a lot outside of our control.
It’s tempting to simply want to “get through it.” If we’re honest, I think a lot of us have been wishing this season away. How many times have you heard, “I can't wait for all of this to be over.”? What if this goes on for a lot longer? Will we continue to wish our days away? For some, this is the last season of basketball they will ever play.
How do you make the most of this season?
What’s more important than winning, breaking records, and getting awards? Who you become in the process.
There is something each of us still have control of that can allow us to keep getting better and even enjoy this season: character.
The Only Way To Win
In his book The Only Way To Win, Jim Loehr writes, “Here’s a powerful way to become more focused on the present and to avoid constantly postponing happiness until the world around you improves. Simply ask yourself, If this is as good as it will get for me, how can I find a way to enjoy this time in my life, this very moment, as it exists right now, without change?”
The problem is, we have placed our happiness and self-worth in the hands of how much we achieve. If circumstances are less than ideal all season long, if this is as good as it gets, you have to learn to find joy in the pursuit and in the process.
Dr. Loehr asks the most important questions, “Who do you become as a result of the pursuit of your goals? Who have you become as a consequence of the chase?”
Have you become more humble, hard-working, confident, competitive, joyful, and compassionate in the pursuit of your goals?
Have you become more negative, irritable, selfish, impatient, and conceited?
Are the forces of the game moving you toward or away from the person you want to become?
Sports Don’t Build Character
There’s a common misconception that “sports build character”, but simply lacing up and shooting a basketball does not make you a better person.
Sports simply provide an opportunity for character to be developed.
If you want lasting fulfillment and joy, even when circumstantially things aren’t ideal, you have to use the game as a vehicle to help develop your character.
Our culture defines success in terms of wins and losses rather than the contents of our character. The problem is, the way we define success is fleeting, but your character is what will last.
Your New Scoreboard
Society’s scoreboard focuses on what you get (awards, accolades, championships). Your new scoreboard is going to focus on who you become.
How do you want to be remembered? Who do you want to become? What does the best version of yourself look like? What character traits do you admire the most in others?
Considering your answers to those questions, you need to decide which character traits you want to work on.
For best results, print and fill out this character development worksheet.
First, fill out the column of character traits. Each day, pick one to put into practice and write what you did to work on that character trait.
It should look something like this:
Redefine success as being able fill out that second column by developing a character trait each day.
Regardless of what this season looks like or what level you make it to as a player, use the game to develop your character.
If you don’t use the game to develop your character, at the end of the season and at the end of your career, you will feel robbed.
When you use the game to build your character, you will benefit from the game for the rest of your life. Character development gives those countless hours in the gym, and those tough seasons a greater purpose.
When you use the game to become a better version of yourself, you can’t lose.
If you would like the PDF version of the character development worksheet, please email BasketballisPsychology@gmail.com
Written by Julie Fournier
Founder & CEO of Basketball is Psychology
Jim Loehr’s book The Only Way To Win https://www.amazon.com/Only-Way-Win-Achievement-Fulfillment/dp/1401324673