Life and sports have lots of commonalities. Have you ever thought victories, failures, champions, coaches etc exist in real life too. All of us associate sports with physical activity, activeness, energy, strength, stamina etc. All kinds of sports be it cricket, basketball, volleyball or even martial arts for that matter, but have we seen or observed that every sport teaches us something about life?. Do you know sports not just builds your character but also reveals it?. Yes, that is one truth we have to ponder.
Every sport shows us the best lessons for life be it in terms of the attitude of winning we should have or the dignity or grace to accept failures, play with true competitiveness, remain calm to put our best foot forward or to face injuries with strength and make a good comeback after recovery. True sportsmanship is a great example for all of us to keep our spirits up and to live our lives with the best attitude. Sports also teaches us the true value of hard work – How important hard work is than talent and how consistency and hard work can make you a champion of your sport/game.
All of these inspiring life lessons are hidden in every sport that I have come to imagine or observe. Let us explore some of the major sports and games that help us learn the best lessons for life with their comparisons to life situations, challenges, obstacles, victories and failures.
1. Cricket, hockey – The games of numbers, tricks, bats balls to sticks, strategy and focus. These games weigh more as team games but they don’t give less importance to individual contribution. Like the weapon of destruction (alias the cricket bat/hockey stick) is in every player’s hand, it gives great importance to this player to focus on nailing the shot or save yourself in such a way that you do not get stumped or score just nothing and walkout putting your team to shame. Or the hockey stick which will help you take control of your ball in such a way that you do not let your opponent team take it in their stride and you could goal. Life is just like these games. In life, with your families as your support, you not only have to play for yourself but also for your family. Your decisions your choices could be anything but you have to strategize and play in such a way that you keep your team (family) in mind when you are deciding or picking your choice, be it your money expenditure, savings, career choices etc. Like the captain motivates the team , you are the captain of your family. You have to motivate them come what may. When they lose, let them accept it but do not allow the failure to sink into their mindsets. Instead help them strategically to come out of it and motivate them for the next game. Like the cricket and hockey grounds have thousands of spectators, each screaming shouting , cheering and booing you – it is up to you to decide how you want to play on the ground. My brother shared with me the story of the deaf frog that climbed up the tree when all the animals around him were discouraging him and stopping him to even do the challenge of climbing up the tree.
Imagine the same case for life – you are living your life in that ground on your own terms, you have many of your friends, relatives, family members who give their comments or opinions on what you are doing – a mix of truths, lies and everything. But how should your focus be? Just on your life! Just on that game of life that you are in charge of and you should play it just the way the deaf frog played its game.
Remembering the time when I went to watch my first cricket match, the India Australia T20 match, sitting in the first row seat of the stadium and the Indian team captain Virat Kohli was so close to the audience as he was fielding closer to the boundary. All of us went crazy seeing him that close but he stood there facing his back to us and our innumerable shouts, cheers,boos did not deter him from losing focus of the game and the sole reason he was standing there – fielding and not letting the opponent score more runs. He did not turn back even once and that did disappoint me (as I am a die hard fan of him), but his focus on his game and the undeterred attitude made me admire him more and this is very inspiring. Imagine a crowd of 10,000 odd at a stadium shouting screaming but your only focus remains your game, your life, your decisions. We should remain this way always.
2. Football, basketball, volleyball – Imagine the balls in these games, were the problems you are facing in your life currently. Something you are not happy about and are so frustrated that you want to squeeze crush or even destroy the ball, but imagine you are playing one of these games in the court of life, you are supposed to have that leg strength, the focus to hit the balls so hard or even kick it that they get tangled in the netted trash can that they never come back to you again. Imagine yourself playing football or basketball, you will try your best to keep that ball to yourself till you throw it off or kick it hard or jump high to drop it in the basket and score the goal. See this scenario like your life where you own your problems and not your relatives or friends who try to interfere,take your problem, be mindful not help solve it,but instead use it for their benefit. I’m sure like the games, you wouldn’t want your opponents to score goals with mastering the game and leave you behind in the scoreboard of life. Think about it!! The other side to look at this is to also play your life game in such a way that you can seek help, have someone who is on your side (your team) and takes initiative just when you’re stuck around with. Someone who is your constant support that when by his/her guidance and help, you succeed to goal, they are equally proud of you as you would be on yourself and your efforts.
3. Tennis and badminton – No different from our other games and the audience around as mentioned above where we have 10,000 in number but here, we either play singles, doubles or mix. What does that infer? – when you are single, you are in charge of your own life and when you play doubles or mix, you have a friend or sibling or even your life partner playing the life game with you – together, supporting you, encouraging you, helping you when you are not at your best or when you need them the most. Life is exactly like the tennis or badminton game. When life throws challenges at you in the form of shuttle cock or the tennis ball, it is up to you to hit it with all your stride, to be a fighter, to focus on winning and not get hit by it instead. The racket is in your hands, you want it to hit it hard and push it off your court – It is all in you.You need to focus on the ball and hit it with all your strength. Don’t run away from challenges, run over it.
4. Running – Running, needs stamina, legs strength, energy and it is also goal oriented (in terms of the number of distance to cover, mileage, speed etc that one wants to maintain). The focus here mainly is on speed, stride rate, distance and how one can keep getting better and better at it. Running implies you need to keep your balance. You raise one foot while the other remains on the ground. That is also how the cycle of life works too – you have good and bad, happiness and sadness that come and go one after the other. This cycle of life revolves just like your feet running. The pace of life also has a similarity with the running pace. Sometimes you are slow, sometimes you have to be fast and competitive to reach the finishing line first. Sometimes you have turns and twists on the way that you have to slow down your pace and then pick up your speed once you see the upcoming path clear and straight. You have to trust your feet to take you to the finishing line. It is your goals, your dreams and it is only you who can achieve it, with all your might. Running not only helps you keep physically fit, it keeps your mental health strong as well.
5. Mountain climbing/Hiking – Nothing is impossible they say and true it is – even the highest peaks are now conquered by even the most common people. Mountain climbing requires lot of physical strength, the ability to bear extreme conditions, high altitudes on which you could have breathlessness and in cases of snow covered mountains you have to take care of many other things apart from just the extreme temperatures.
Two feet, two hands, the strength, the stamina and the willpower to keep going higher and higher till you reach the peak of success. Applicable to life as well – you need to give your 100% to everything you set out to do in life and all your efforts, time, hard work etc. Your rope has to be strong enough to hold you and help you reach the top. In real life, your rope is your confidence and belief that you can achieve. If you have the Hopes of holding onto this belief you can definitely reach the highest peak of success all by yourself.
I watched an interview of twin sisters lately who have climbed Mount Everest, Mount Alps, been to both South and North poles and achieved these great feats. They are just 22 years old and have done the extraordinary. This gives us a lesson that nothing is impossible in life, the fears and limits are created by your mind that stops you from conquering your goals. If you think you can do it, you really can. There is a very strong connection between your words, your thoughts and your mindset. If you speak positively, have strong thoughts of willingness to achieve, the doors open for you to get ahead with your steps. But if you keep thinking of your fears, the limits, the more difficult it gets for you to achieve anything. Another aspect of their feat they shared was that they had to spend close to 15-20 days to reach to the top and in such extreme weather conditions,plus everytime they had to climb up they had a 30 kg backpack each on their back with which they had to go up. This backpack had their food and essential items like medicines, water, extra warm clothes, tent, blankets etc. Imagine the same for life, we carry a lot of burden within ourselves be it burden of thoughts, burden of responsibilities, burden of negativity, burden of pressure, burden of comparisons, burden of disappointments and failures etc. Each of these burdens rest on our shoulders, they are on our backs putting us to a lot of pain that we sometimes have to resort to extreme steps to get rid of them like suicide, getting into depression etc. This way we give up on life very quickly. The one chance that the Almighty gave us to live our life in the best way, we end up losing it causing great pain to our families and friends. It is important to live life with great strength even with these burdens on us. We have to show that we are stronger than these burdens. Carrying them with us and going up the mountain of life, can one day give us victory, freedom and the happiness of achieving the feat inspite of the burdens. Every successful story has the same story where inspite of the hardships people succeed. They also carry their burdens along but they don’t let it overtake their strong mental willpower to succeed. This is how they tell their success stories. It will take sometime, even months, even years but it is in you to keep going strong come what may.
6. Archery/Shooting/Bowling – All of us are aware of how the archery or the shooting games work where concentration and focus on your targets is a must. This is the same lesson we need to learn from these games, in terms of achieving our goals. It is important to keep perfect focus on your goals and achieve them like a pro. The closer the arrow hits the red eye target, the better. The farther it hits, you still have a long way to work on your focus, attention, aim etc. Most times in our lives we speak of achieving or rather aiming to achieve our goals but down the line the focus dies down, our priorities change and it is all closed someday. We need to have the ‘Do or die’ situation where we have to make sure we achieve come what may. The best thing about achieving goals is not the how or what, it is the ‘why’. Think about why you want to achieve your goals and the purpose for which you want to achieve them. That clearly helps in drawing your action plan, taking the time out and working on them. This is the magic for achieving your goals with clear cut focus.
Recently I had a team outing at office where we went out for bowling. After close to 3 years I was bowling this time but I played well. I treated this as any sport I was playing and the ambience the bowling alleys had was beautiful. It was all blue lanes with just the bottles in white and as I walked to play, I used my tricks, I kept my focus on the bottles, my mind was clear and the noises around ignored in my head, swung the ball aiming for a clean sweep and most times for the two strikes I had at once, I had the clean sweep win. I was thrilled. It has been a long time I had the time to play and when I did , I was in great spirits. I jumped on my clear targets with so much happiness.
Another way of seeing those bottles I was aiming to shove off were the demons in my head that were standing tall and high and the power I had was stronger than them. The power to focus on dropping every demon standing there proudly. Equally applicable to life – where we have a lot of thoughts in our heads which eat up our time, are not good nor beneficial. It is in us to use the huge ball of truth and sane mind to get rid of these useless thoughts and demons. You have the power all the time.
7. Martial arts – There are various forms of martial arts like wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Jujutsu, Kalaripayattu,Kung Fu, karate, taekwondo that focus on different sections of physical and mental training. The lessons for life that this sport teaches us is how we can maintain our calm , push ourselves to challenge , how it instills confidence in us – the confidence to save ourselves, to show that we are in charge of our own lives, how you could take a step forward just the way you want to , keeping in mind what the move of the opponent could be and how you can counter it or defend yourself.
All of these martial arts focus not on the principle to hurt the other person or opponent, instead it underlines the motive of self defense – how you need to stand for yourself and be alert everytime to defend yourself and protect. Martial arts helps in keeping the good balances of life like calm mindset, building concentration, fighting your demons,keeping up the stamina to defend or fight constantly etc rather than being aggressive all the time or using your anger in the wrong manner. It has been clear and very evident in the boxing arenas that if the fighters use their anger in the right manner, they end up getting defeated. It is important to remain calm during such situations where it will help you understand what life is throwing at you and you give it back using the best tactic and punch that you feel best. It is also important to keep yourself alert and have laser sharp focus.
Life is like any sport we play. Life gives you practice sessions to practice, excel, keep doing better, to build your stamina and to keep the consistency of victories going. Life also gives you opportunities to take up challenges, you do have levels in life just like the video games, the next that gets harder than the previous level, giving you more challenges to take up, excel and come out victorious. At the same time, there are some sessions or events that are not the best those times, it is okay to fail as many times as you want because each of these failures will one day help you reach the final step of success. Sports also teaches us the principle of accepting failure and success equally, for accepting failures with dignity and grace and most importantly playing in the true spirit of sportsmanship. We all know what happened to the Australian cricket team players who destroyed the game with their deceit and fraud tactics, they fell to shame in the eyes of the audience, their families and even themselves. There is no place for someone who plays the sport with a fraud mindset.
Sports or games in school always taught us the best lessons for life. Winning or losing was not important, but it was participation, how being competitive is good and also the fact that our lives are going to be like the hurdles/obstacles race where we have to jump high, cross them to get to the next level in life. When we reach the finishing line first or come out victorious we are champions but we also have some people who have been our coaches in all walks of life, be it our parents, teachers, our friends etc.
The best line I have ever come across – ‘You and your opponent want the same thing, the only thing that matters is who works the hardest for it’.
Let’s treat each day as our game and play each day with good competitive spirit, stay strong, strike well and add points to our scoreboards of lives and become champions in our own ways :). Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!!!.