We Need to Make Some In-Game Adjustments

When we suffer defeat, when we’re demoted, when we lose the job, how do we then view ourselves?

What is your identity tied to?

It’s not an easy question. But for many of us, the answer is likely performance.

Victories, salaries, titles, sales, promotions — all the external accolades that we allow to determine our self-worth.

But when we suffer defeat, when we’re demoted, when we lose the job, how do we then view ourselves?

In his second masterful piece in the Players’ Tribune on anxiety and mental illness, Cleveland Cavaliers Forward Kevin Love warned last week of the dangers of rooting our value solely in achievement.

“My entire identity was tied to one thing in a really unhealthy way. Way before I was in the NBA or even in college, my self-worth was all about performing. I was what I did,” he wrote.

“When I wasn’t performing, I didn’t feel like I was succeeding as a person.”

Love’s panic attack before a 2018 game has been well-documented, but there are many lessons he’s taken from that period that we’d be wise to apply to our own lives immediately, regardless of whether we’re currently hoisting a championship trophy or have suffered a few consecutive defeats.  

  1. We need to treat our mental well-being as an investment portfolio that isn’t overly reliant on a single stock. We need to better balance our passion for our profession with some outside interests, some people we care about and set some life goals that aren’t necessarily related to our work. We need a little more diversity to our identities.

  2. We need to think back on some of our successes. There’s a great paradox in many of our lives as leaders. A lot of our achievements and our ability to rise in our fields can be attributed to hard work and humility. But sometimes that humility doesn’t allow us to recognize our many accomplishments along the way. Let’s be better about appreciating what it is that we uniquely offer.  

  3. We need to consider our identity in slightly broader terms. We’re not simply coaches, executives and managers. We’re leaders — and there are a host of qualities that go along with that. We’re charismatic, we’re empathetic, we’re motivators and we’re practical under pressure. Let’s never forget that we don’t need an official title to embody these qualities in our daily lives.

  4. Let’s find someone we can be truly open with. Love writes that speaking regularly to a psychiatrist has been the biggest difference-maker for him. Whether it’s a professional, a loved one or just a trusted confidant, let’s have a person in our lives with whom we can be fully transparent without fear of judgment.

There is no perfect game plan for untying our self-worth away from achievement. But we can’t wait until the final buzzer sounds to realize we needed to change. Let’s start making some in-game adjustments right now, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

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