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5 Life Purpose Lessons from the Ultimate Field

I think I’ve had one true love in my life. It wasn’t a person, God or nature. It is/was Ultimate Frisbee. (Right now, if you think I’m talking about disc golf, please use the Google and set yourself straight.)

Due to a series of injuries and age, I had to give up the thing I love the most. But last night I got to play a few glorious points because the team I came to watch was short on women. So I lumbered onto the field and remembered, again, what I love about the sport. (And, yes, this morning I was also reminded why I had to stop playing. Ouch.) I could wax un-elegantly about what I love for a long time, but suffice it to say, Ultimate satisfies many of my values and needs.

I bet you’re wondering what Ultimate has to do with your career and life. Check out these uplifting life purpose lessons Ultimate reminded me about.

Lesson #1: Participate, all-in, full out.

Watching isn’t good enough. In what way are you watching your life instead of fully participating in it? In Ultimate lingo, you have to commit to your cut or you’ll never get the disc. In other words, you have to play like you want it. Where in your life are you going through the motions? Why? What stops you from committing? If you’re doing something you don’t love, why are you doing it?

Lesson #2: Live according to your values.

For me, Ultimate meets my values of community, authenticity and fun. Step one is figuring out what you actually value. For the overachievers out there, you may value a lot of things, which makes decision-making tricky. If you value 72 things, how can you possibly prioritize anything, much less make a decision? This is where the old adage “Actions speak louder than words” comes into play. Usually our actions tell us what we truly value. Choose 3-5 core values you want to live by and prioritize decisions according to those values.

I realize this is oversimplifying things a bit, but here’s a link to a values questionnaire that can help. The nice thing about this survey is that it prioritizes your values for you. How would your life change if you lived according to the top three (or five) values?

Try this: Just for a day, make all your decisions based on your core 3-5 values. When your life is out of alignment with your values, conflict, strife and depression come home to roost. Honoring your values gives you more energy. What would your life look like if had more energy?

Lesson #3: It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game.

This may be the most important lesson of all, which I regularly forget in my pursuit of goals. The journey IS the destination. I feel very fortunate that I learned this lesson at all, and I credit Ultimate with being the teacher. Indulge me for a moment while I try to explain.

The game of Ultimate is so fun (for me) that I forget to keep score. The best games are the close ones, where each individual is challenged to rise to their greatest potential. The game of Ultimate is rife with human error. In Ultimate, it is more important to maintain your integrity than to score a point.

What I remember most about Ultimate is the community and the fun it provided. I don’t remember which games we won or lost. I remember the people who made me laugh before, during and after the game. I remember the people who loved me even when I made a mistake. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want in my life.

Achievements can feel like hollow victories, unless you enjoy the journey. What do you want to experience on your life journey?

Lesson #4: Know when to let it go.

So, this is the hardest one, but there are two good litmus tests for knowing when it’s time to let something go. When you actually decide to let go is up to you.

First, when you’re feeling more pain than pleasure with no end in sight, that’s usually a good sign that it’s time to let something go. You can believe the motto, “no pain, no gain” if you want to, but you don’t have to. But rest assured, if that is your motto, that is exactly what you’re going to get.

Or, if the reason you’re hanging on to something is out of fear, that’s also good indicator that the jig is up. Maybe you have a job you no longer enjoy, but it’s “not that bad.” What keeps you tied to the job? If it’s fear of the unknown or fear that you won’t make ends meet or… that tells you that you’ve allowed fear to rule your decisions. And making decisions based on fear, while completely normal, is not an optimal way to live. You can overcome fear (see last week’s blog post for some tips), but you only get one life to live. You can create something better.

Lesson #5: Live and act in love.

If you don’t love it, why are you doing it? Who or what are you serving? ‘Nuff said.

If you’re still reading, thank you for indulging my reminiscence of Ultimate. As I sat last night watching the sun set on the Ultimate field and sipping my beer, I wanted to honor something that I’ve loved and had to let go.

What have you had to let go of? How did you do it? What did you learn as a result? Share your story!

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