I have been competing as a senior tennis player for 30+ years. I have been fortunate to have had an incredible run during these years. I had results beyond my dreams and, more importantly, I have become a different person as a result of being in the heat of competition hundreds and hundreds of times. I have grown by facing the challenges of losing and winning, as each of these create a distortion that needs to be defeated. Losing comes with the costs of doubt, loss of confidence, worry, fear, wanting to stop and more. Winning comes with increased expectations, a bar that is very high, ego, complacency, another form of doubt and different worries and fears.
Dealing with these challenges are the greatest gifts of competition. The fact that they are gifts don’t make the work a party. It takes effort, commitment, perseverance, a willingness to go through discomfort and, with all that, there is no guarantee about the results.
Each year I face the work that is in front of me. It doesn’t matter how I did last year. Last year’s ranking and results are old news.
Each year I ask myself, do I want to do it again? Each year I feel it is a little harder to fire up. I can tell myself a story that I have accomplished enough. I have grown enough. There is nothing more for me to learn. I am getting older. I have lost a step. The fever is not there for me. It is the same old same old. I have other projects that sap my focus. My coaching and writing are my biggest challenges now.
But this is not the story of who I aspire to be!
This story around tennis that I have lived each year is one that inspires me.
To be an extraordinary competitor who plays, in competition, at the high end of my skill and talent. To love the competition more than I love to win and to accept whatever the outcome with dignity and class. To compete in the moment, avoiding past and future tripping. To compete for each point. To compete with effortless effort. To be non judgmental of myself. To enjoy myself. To be enthusiastic. To be forgiving of myself for my inability to achieve perfection. To see the perceived pressure moments as the sweetest moments. To have every match be an experience where I grow as a player and a person.
I read it and know that, once again, I will compete. It is my passion. I do it well and I like to spend time doing what I do well. It provides a laboratory for me to become a better version of Bob.
I want to continue to improve at living in the present moment and competition asks me to enter that world and to stay there, despite the habitual way of thinking that pulls me away.
By competing, by being in the present for all of those points in practice and matches, my life becomes fuller. The more time I work on being present, the more it becomes part of who I am. In time, I will just be someone who lives in the present, every moment. I aspire to become that Bob.
While I have been processing and deciding I passed on the first tournament of the year. It is going on right now in Florida. When it started early this week, I felt the flame within me. It took me several days to sit down to write.
As soon as I started to write about where I am in the process I knew that I would be competing again.
Writing my new story always works. I have already made room and flight reservations for the next tournament. St. Pete, Florida. End of February.