Evaluating If Your Mission Is Healthy or Unhealthy


Do you know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy sense of purpose?

Last year I spoke to nine NCAA Division One coaching staffs and their respective athletic teams. On one campus, I conversed with some athletes after my session. Two students shared their “take” on the Habitude I’d taught called “Rivers and Floods.” It’s all about focus. For one of them, this image motivated him to put up “banks” on his life and flow like a river. For the other athlete, the image was elusive. She didn’t know where to start focusing, as her whole life seemed to be seeping out in all directions. She was scattered, with lots of sideways energy.

I felt badly for her and began to analyze the difference in these students.

We’ve all met individuals, who are stable; they come across emotionally healthy; they’re folks who, when we left them, we felt their ambition was sound and their relationships were fit. They inspired us. At the same time, I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who, when we left them, we wondered whether something was wrong; things felt less than healthy; something was awry. If they asked, we wouldn’t want to join them in their mission. They exhausted us.

When our purpose is healthy…

Our ambition is built off a passion to excel and to perform at our personal best, not merely to gain conquest over others. We have an inward compass, and while our motivation is real, it is balanced. We are focused, but not obsessive.

When our purpose is unhealthy…

Our ambition is about striving; we are discontented people who cannot seem to ever be OK with ourselves. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others to see where we are better or worse than them. We are constantly reacting.

So why do we compete with others?

When it comes to sports, I doubt any fan would be satisfied by watching an athlete simply compete against their personal best—running across a field alone to prove they’re getting faster and stronger than last week. Due to the reality of alma maters, conference standings, national rankings and championship trophies to be won, people want to see your talent displayed next to some other team’s talent, to prove how well you’ve recruited and developed it. That’s the purpose of competition.

But in the end, healthy purpose is about improvement; it’s about honing our God-given gift to become excellent, so that it adds value to the world around you. When this is your ambition, you can learn from others, admire them and affirm their talent. Seeing others succeed doesn’t send you into a tailspin. Quite the opposite, it puts wind in your sails to be better yourself. Your focus is clear.

Legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden would never study his team’s opponents before each game. He’d simply have his players master their skills and build a plan off their strengths. And they won again and again. He helped his students be pro-active not reactive. Winning was a marvelous by-product.

When we’re striving, we innately don’t like who we are and feel inadequate unless we’re pushing ourselves incessantly. We often don’t measure up—as our emotions are on a roller-coaster.

So—examine your life and leadership today. Are you healthy?

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