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20 March, 2009

THE IMPORTANCE OF A LIFE GAME PLAN

I feel compelled to take one more kick at the can before leaving the subject of coaching and youth. I have written and talked extensively on the subject, at the risk of my words falling on deaf ears, but I take one more stab at it here because my life is currently crossed with a number of young people on the cusp of adulthood. We may never walk this way again.

There are two paths in life and it is crucial for the young man or woman, emerging from the relative comfort of their carefree teens, to consider these two ways soberly and earnestly before moving on. If they choose a path that truth and reason tell them will lead to honor, success and happiness, they have chosen wisely. The other path is too well known to need description.

It is a sad awakening when, after a lapse of 20 years, we find ourselves amid ruined hopes -- to sit down with folded hands and say, "So far I have failed. Life really sucks! Is this what I can expect for the rest of my life?" Trust me, I have been there, so naive that I actually thought that my dreams and fantasies alone were enough to carry me through. Only trouble was, I washed out as a student and I had no life game plan beyond baseball at which I was a has-been at 19-years-of-age. In the absence of a plan for my life, I really had to scramble to catch up. Sometimes I think that I am still playing catch up.


The first thing that I had to learn is that life is what you make it. If it is mean and cruel, it is because we make it so. The mystery of our being, the necessity of action, the relation of cause and effect, the dependence of one thing upon another, the mutual influence and affinity of all things, assure us that life is for a purpose and it can be quite fulfilling and wonderful.

Almost too late, I came to realize that at the outset of a career we must form the solemn purpose to make the most and the best of the powers -- the strengths, the talents, the skills -- that we were born with and to turn, to the best possible account, every outward advantage within reach. We are wise, also, to have a contingency or backup plan, should unforeseen circumstances develop in our life.

The purpose of which I speak should carry with it the assent of reason, the approval of conscience and the sober judgement of intellect. It should also embody within itself whatever is vehement in desire, inspiring in hope, thrilling in enthusiasm and intense in desperate resolve. Such a plan of life saves us from many a damaging contest or challenges that offer unhealthy temptations. It will regulate the way we approach our education, sports and recreational activities. For those just starting out in adulthood, I cannot emphasize enough the fact that by studying, training and laboring under the inspiration of such a purpose, there is every possibility of soaring out of sight of those who barely allow themselves to be carried along by the momentum of the machinery to which they are attached.

Many pass through life without even a consciousness of where they are, what they are, and what they are doing. They gaze on whatever lies directly before them in fond amusement lost. In effect, they never grow up!

I like the wisdom of the great football coach Vince Lombardi who said: "The quality of a man's (or woman's) life is in direct proportion to his (her) commitment to excellence, regardless of his (her) chosen field of endeavor."

And speaking of football, the NFL/NFF in the States has created a most commendable program as part of its youth development initiative. "Power 4W" consists of four important elements: Wishpower, Wantpower, Waypower and Willpower, all of which warrant closer scrutiny.

The first step, Wishpower, requires you to think about what you would like your life to be like in five or 10 years from now. Would you like to be in college, or if you are already would you like to be a doctor, business executive, actor or professional athlete? Would you like to have a family? This vision of the future must be your ideal, not what you would settle for. Don't be afraid to dream!

Having thought about the future, you need then to set the proper goals that will get you there. This is the step called Wantpower. Goals are very important because they keep you motivated, give you direction, and give you a sense of pride and accomplishment once you achieve them.

Once you have set your goals, it is important to design a strategy or game plan in order to achieve them. In the Waypower stage it is helpful to complete a goal ladder which will allow you to climb toward you ultimate goal one step at a time and also make progress visible.

Of course, setting goals is much easier than actually achieving them. As I said previously, obstacles with potential to impede your progress, can arise at any time. If you are prepared with an effective defense and have the Willpower to overcome roadblocks, you will be on the way to an ideal future.

When problems arise, as they most assuredly will, take a deep breath, go for a walk, clear your mind so that you can put the situation in perspective. This will then allow you to think of all the choices that you have; which choices will lead you to the right decision and which options will lead to the wrong decision. Finally, respond to the situation with the decision that will get you one step closer to your goal -- an ideal future for you and the special significant others who will come into your life.

Good luck!

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