Twice a week I spend an hour in our volleyball gym to coach our players from age 11-18. We talk about what’s happening in their lives on and off the court, and mostly I listen to their wisdom. Every time I do this, I walk away with a new insight about being a teenager in 2020, and I gotta say, it ain’t easy. Their little lives are being played out on a social media stage where every misstep is examined and re-examined. And that leads to a boatload of stress and mental fatigue. These girls are anxious and really hard on themselves when they make a mistake, and the same goes for their moms.
So, last night I imparted one of the most valuable lessons of my “really hard year” of losing both my parents and my right breast to cancer, “When you’re feeling sad or buried in shame, help another person.”
Compassion for another human is a fast pass back to contentment. The mere act of thinking about another person makes your own chit seem lighter and easier to manage.
That’s the beauty of team sports. For the time the girls are at practice, they are forced to be in the moment with other girls doing the same thing. It’s a vacation from the fishbowl of social media, because the gym rule is “phones in backpacks until practice is complete.” And the whole point of volleyball is to work together to build skills and work toward the same goal. When one player makes a mistake, her teammates rally around her to support her in trying again. Together they can accomplish what one player alone cannot. And when a player feels supported by her team, she feels more confident and willing to go outside her comfort zone to learn new skills.
Where can you apply this in your own life. How can you find little points of compassion in your day? I challenge you to try something different the next time you’re feeling like Eeyore with your own personal cloud—take 5 minutes to smile at a stranger or send a friend an “I’m thinking of you” text. Then notice how much better you feel by shifting your focus from your problems to making someone else’s day. Let me know how it goes by sending me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or writing on the Big Board at GPS.