With 2020 approaching, I looked back on some of my prior posts over the last year. This one is from December 2018, and I thought now is a good time to bring it back around.
Does diversifying yourself as an athlete give you an edge? How does your identity factor into your success and athletic happiness?
Diversification is common everywhere in the world outside of sports. But when it comes to athletics, kids are told that they need to zoom in focus on just one activity, even at a young age.
And what ends up happening?
We end up creating goaltenders, forwards, defensemen, pitchers, outfielders, quarterbacks, point guards, spikers, and strikers who are afraid to make mistakes, who have only one identity: themselves in their sport.
Now there’s no issue in dedicating and obsessing yourself over one thing. That’s called passion. But it is, however, important to see a broader picture, especially when young.
When kids have one identity as an athlete, what do they do when their sport is no longer their life?
Or what happens when they fail or make a mistake?
What happens when the basket holding all your eggs breaks? When you put $100k into only one stock and its share price tanks?
Putting personal identity in lockstep with any one job, sport, relationship, or hobby means that identity syncs with the success or failure of that attachment. Any (even minor) difficulty, misjudgment, or mistake could feel like a personal disaster. Because a person’s entire being and identity is wrapped up in that one thing, a mistake or rough patch could be perceived as an insurmountable personal failure.
Just as diversifying a financial portfolio limits and decreases overall financial risk, diversifying your identity portfolio decreases overall emotional risk. If you find satisfaction and success in many things, then struggle or adversity in one will not cause your world to crumble.
Diversifying your identity doesn’t mean that you should apathetically approach who you are nor activities you enjoy. Life is fruitful and happiest when you strive…when you work, sacrifice, and push for something greater.
But when things are going sideways, upside down and across, having a stable and diversified identity portfolio can make a big difference in a person’s ability to weather the storm and persevere.
When considering your own identity portfolio, consider these broad categories.
1. Who am I to my Family?
2. Who am I with Friends or in Social Settings?
3. Who am I at Work?
4. Who am I as an Athlete or as far as my Personal Health is concerned?
5. Who am I as a Learner? (Student or Personal / Professional Development)
6. Who am I in my Interests & Hobbies?
The idea is to diversify where you stake your identity so that you can enjoy the various strengths highlighted in the different areas. When one part of your identity drops off or experiences hardship, one of the others picks up the slack…just like a well-diversified financial portfolio.
As a personal example, when I retired from pursuing my playing career, I felt lost because I had put so much emphasis on the “Athlete” sector of my portfolio. Figuratively, 80% of my identity was wrapped in being a goalie. It wasn’t until I went back to school (20%), started coaching athletes (40%), and training CrossFit (20%) that I made up for the hole in my identity that was lost when I ended my playing career. Other elements were certainly there, and as I got over retirement, they grew in ‘market share’ too.
Now, these don’t have to be based on time spent in each category; rather on the amount of weight you place on each as a share of your outward personality to the world.
When it comes to coaching, teaching, and training tomorrows athletes, business-people, and leaders, a sustainable, long-term approach should be emphasized in all things, and diversifying interests should be of primary concern.
In conclusion, diversifying one’s identity and learning to excel in multiple fields or activities can dramatically enhance personal satisfaction and resilience while limiting the risk of burnout, quitting, or emotional breakdown.
So where do you stand? Is your identity diversified? Are you encouraging others to try new things and to stake their identity in more than one area? Are you setting yourself up for long-term, sustainable success?