I used to go to the gym everyday to improve my game. First, it was for a spot on the roster. Then it was for a prominent role on the court. Later, it was for a scholarship. Finally it was to become a pro…and remain a pro. It became my job. It provided for my family.
Improve my handle. Master new moves. Improve my shot. Increase my range. Improve my body. Get quicker. Get stronger.
For some reason, I loved the work. And I know there’s a lesson about passion in there — when you love what you do, you’re willing to work extremely hard at it. All good and true. There’s also a lesson on work ethic, but that can wait as well.
My problem in all that pursuing? It was entirely about me.
My skills. My body. My game. Don’t get me wrong — it is important. After all, the better I am, the more I have to give my team. But when every workout everyday is centered around me, it’s easy to approach things in a self-centered manner.
Last week, I was reminded of the purpose in being about others. I arrived at a local gym and laced up my shoes like I’d done thousands of times before as a player. But this was different. My focus wasn’t on me. It was on the kids I’d be coaching.
I’m running basketball clinics on Wednesday evenings. They’re nothing grand. No media. No fans. There’s a wide range in abilities. But it’s been refreshing and rewarding to get out of my own way and direct my focus on others.
I’m no longer entering the gym questioning, “How can I improve?” Now it’s, “How can I help others improve?”
The truth? It’s not natural. My tendency is to stay inward. It’s more comfortable. I’m more in control. It’s no different off the court either. I have to fight my self-focus at work, in the community, and at home.
Teaching basketball has reminded me of an important message I had more than a few coaches emphasize — “It’s not about you!”
In my marriage, my family, my vocation, my friendships, my life. I can’t be the focus of me.
The ironic thing? I always played better when my focus was on lifting up my teammates. I’m discovering it’s no different in other pursuits and relationships. My marriage is better when I’m about my wife. I’m more curious and more productive when my focus isn’t internal. My own mood is even better when I’m not stuck on me.
Let’s give this a try. For every person or situation you encounter ask yourself, “How can I be a blessing?”