THIS New York Times UPSHOT article, “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love” by Robert H. Frank, is about identifying a job that will provide a satisfying life. Some of what is said can apply to finding a sport/athletic endeavor that will inspire you to remain active for a lifetime. Mr. Frank makes an argument that level of financial reward may not be the best way to predict future job satisfaction, but that the money aspect cannot be ignored in the real world.
The author says his response to students asking for career advice is to inquire “whether any activity has ever absorbed them completely”. If they respond affirmatively he suggests “that they prepare themselves for a career that entails tasks as similar as possible to that activity, even if it doesn’t normally lead to high financial rewards.”
The trick to being relatively well paid in a job with attractive working conditions, he says, is to become an expert in it; deep expertise tends to be more highly rewarded. The involved tasks in a chosen career should be intellectually absorbing he contends, because a significant amount of time and effort will be needed to develop the level of expertise that is most likely to be richly compensated. He states that “becoming an expert is so challenging that you are unlikely to expend the necessary effort unless the task is one that you love for its own sake. If it is, the process will be rewarding apart from whether it leads to high pay.”
How does his advice apply to finding an athletic activity you love? Substitute achieving ‘weight loss’ or a ‘beach body’ as reasons to choose a specific sport, for high salary as a reason to choose a specific career. Although physical transformation may be important to most of us in the short run (just before a wedding or high school reunion), it may not inspire sufficient lifelong motivation to persevere and grow in a sport or healthy exercise activity. Just as becoming an expert in a career field is more likely to lead to a well paid job, striving to become an “expert” in a sport might lead to more highly rewarding athletic experiences at every successive age.
Becoming an “expert” in a sport activity, as a non-professional athlete, requires demonstrating improvement with proper training. Proper training involves strength conditioning, work on flexibility, mobility, and balance, and paying attention to nutrition. Improvement can be measured through competition against self or others, in personal or organized events. Becoming an expert in a sport activity involves committing to regular goal competitions and the training necessary to achieve those goals.
To get back to the article’s advice, finding a sport activity you love starts with determining whether any physical effort (designed to be fun) has ever “absorbed you completely”. If so, look for a sport that involves tasks as similar as possible to that activity, even if it doesn’t promise to lead to weight loss, beach body, etc. If you become absorbed in a sport, you’re likely to be willing to expend the effort and accept the challenges of training that will lead to improvement in competition. If you strive to perform better, regardless of age (because your competition will be within an age group), you will also strive to train smarter and consistently. Setting and committing to regular goal competitions and persevering in training will take you to expert level.
When my children entered middle school, it was mandatory, according to the physical education teacher, that they be introduced to different sports in PE classes. I cannot recall exactly, but it seemed like every month or so they tried something new. Rather than focusing on picking one sport in which to excel, they were encouraged to join several teams, sampling as many sports as could be managed by their parent(s) it seemed to me. In this way students weren’t pidgeon-holed into considering only the 2 or 3 most popular sports for participation and enjoyment.
The wonderful aspect of searching for an activity that eventually may become a BELOVED sport, trying as many as initially interest us, is that the hunt can extend beyond middle school and college. It’s appropriate at ANY AGE! The search can continue and we can FIND NEW or RE-DISCOVER ‘old’ sports to enjoy, season after season.
Running, walking, hiking, rucking, mountain biking, surfing, tennis, pickleball, beach volleyball, sailing, skating, golf, curling, hockey, and other sports are candidates. This final week of the SUMMER OLYMPICS, watch the competitions yet to be contested. Some events may seem more exciting or some athletes more awe-inspiring than others. Perhaps these feelings are CLUES to your interests and indicate which sports should be explored further.
The NTY UPSHOT article can do double duty; it can help you formulate a career plan or find a moderate-to-vigorous exercise activity to keep your heart pumping and your body healthy over a lifetime.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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