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Pushover to Pioneer
There is one trait I’ve observed in others throughout my life that saddens me more than any other: selfishness. Selfishness destroys relationships. It robs people of joy. While it may produce temporary results, the results are fleeting…or unsatisfying. So how do you guard your heart against selfishness? Be grateful!
Several years ago, my agency took a group of our athletes and volunteers on a week-long trip to Haiti. The country was still in recover mode after the massive earthquake of 2010, which left an already impoverished nation in shambles. Ministries launched into action to serve Haitians on the ground and help them rebuild their lives. I was blessed to have friends working with Mission of Hope Haiti, and together we planned the service trip, incorporating player development, education and team bonding time as well.
On our first morning in Haiti, we attended Mission of Hope’s church service. Together, we watched in awe as locals packed into the pavilion, raising their hands and voices as they joyfully sang songs of worship. “You’re all I want; you’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want; help me know You are near.” Tears filled my eyes as I joined them in the familiar song. Several of my players gave me puzzled looks, and I understood their momentary confusion. Why were these people so happy? They had nothing. Most were wearing the only clothes they owned, and had walked for miles from their tiny shacks to attend the Sunday morning service. The young woman next to me, a teenager, raised one arm in worship, while holding a tiny baby–wrapped in an old towel–in the other. She was smiling and singing to God with all her heart. I had never witnessed such joy in the midst of such sorrow. None of us had.
In that moment, I was overcome by not only God’s love but also the power of complete gratitude. I recognized the selfishness–or self-centeredness–in my own life. The athletes who traveled to Haiti with me felt the same. All of our cares, our worries, our stress…seemed to melt away. We realized how utterly blessed we all were, and how much we took our blessings for granted. We had come to Haiti to serve and to try to make a difference in the lives of those suffering. But while we accomplished our mission, we were the ones whose lives were truly changed forever.
When we live our lives in gratitude, we see each day as a blessing. We appreciate each moment in a way we can’t if we are too focused on ourselves and on what we don’t have. Even in my toughest moments–when I am overwhelmed or frustrated or discouraged–I remember the joy on the faces of those beautiful Haitian people. They had no idea where their next meal was coming from, but they were grateful to be alive and were too busy thanking God to worry about anything else. They had hope. They had joy.
How do you reach this place of joy and peace? First, take a look at your heart and your attitude. Eliminate selfishness. Focus on what you have: relationships, opportunities, blessings. Be grateful for all of those things! Do whatever it takes to regularly remind yourself to be grateful. Make a gratitude list. Review and update it regularly. Keep happy photos where you can see them. Sing. Laugh. Whatever it takes! Because when you find joy, you find strength. And with that strength, you can change the world…starting with your own.