Scratch goals, let’s talk about legacy.

By Petra Kowalski, Founder of Performance Colorado

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against goals. Effective goals can be an incredible performance enhancer – which I’ll cover in another post. But today I am going to shift our attention away from the goals themselves and talk first about how we go about achieving those goals.

When we think of ‘goals’ we tend to think of things we want to achieve or accomplish. That’s all fine and well. I want to talk about who we become in pursuit of those goals and how to make sure the person you become is the person you want to be. Because at the end of the day, at the end of our sport careers, at the end of our lives – our accomplishments and achievements will be measured not in a vacuum, but within the context of our character.

We can all name high performing athletes who we don’t consider role models. They are the athletes who have plenty of accomplishments, accolades, and trophies to their name, but they don’t demonstrate good character either while competing and/or in life. Interestingly enough, most of those people fade out of the spotlight faster or in a much more dramatic way than those who also demonstrate solid character. This might be because they’re more worried about looking good than being good. It might be because their behavior erodes their support network. I can’t tell you for sure. But what I can tell you is that the performers who have a solid moral compass, robust sense of purpose, and strong relationships outlast and outperform those who don’t.

Today in your homework, I’m going to ask you some deep questions that should get you thinking and may not be easy to answer. They will be questions about who you want to be, your core values, what drives you, the people that matter to you and the legacy you hope to leave. Before I do that, I want to give you good reason open up, be vulnerable and devote time and effort to this assignment.

Taking time to define who you want to be and learning to use those values as your driving force and your guiding light in the pursuit of your goals will have several effects:

·       Your goals will have more personal meaning which means you’ll have more powerful and more sustainable motivation to accomplish them and more satisfaction in that accomplishment.

·       Your character, reputation, and personal relationships are less likely to suffer or be sacrificed along the way. 

·       You’ll know who you are outside of competition and sport – which is important because for all of us, the day will come when it’s time to step away from competitive play and we are going to need to know we are worthy off the field.

·       Your performance will increase as you release the unhealthy amount of pressure you’re likely putting on yourself.

I want to spend a quick minute unpacking how this last point works and why it’s so cool.

Knowing and accepting yourself is key to excellent performance. When we know our true selves, when we know who we want to be and the legacy we want to leave and we work and strive to live that life every day, our worth no longer depends on what we accomplish or what we achieve – which are, after all, fleeting and transient.

When we learn to separate our worth from our performance – our goals – is when we can truly unlock potential and consistently perform at our best. If our worth or value or confidence doesn’t depend on the outcome of a game, a tournament, or what team we did or didn’t make, the pressure releases. Your body and mind are freed to do what they know how to do without the judgement or self-criticism that so often gets in the way.

With that, forget about the things you want to accomplish and think about who you want to become as you strive to accomplish them. This will be your legacy – what you leave behind and the impact you have on others, the sport, and the world.


A few preparatory notes:

-You don’t have to complete this in one sitting. It’s totally okay, maybe even encouraged, to read this homework all the way through and let it simmer for an hour or a day before coming back to write down your answers. These are simple questions that can spark deep reflection if taken in the right mindset.

-You can complete this exercise in a group/team setting if you wish. If you take this route, I encourage you to share your answers with one another after each question and have open-minded discussion. This can be an awesome team building/bonding activity.

-This is an excellent activity for coaches (especially youth coaches). Completing it for yourself can help you ensure you’re modeling what you want to be modeling to your athletes every day. Walking your athletes through this as an exercise can help you help you teach them to be self-motivated, hold themselves accountable and…well, just become good people of solid character.

Ready? Here we go.

1)      What is the legacy you want to leave? Or, how do you want to be remembered? You can think about this question specific to Ultimate or broaden it to your whole life.

2)      Rate yourself on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent) on how you’re doing so far living a life that will leave the legacy you wish. This is just a quick self-check. If your number is low, no worries…that’ll just be additional motivation to change. If your number is high, good on you! Identify what specifically you’re doing so you can keep doing it.

3)      Who inspires you to be your best self? Who have you modeled yourself after in terms of character? If there is one specific person, write down their name and describe what about them inspires you to live a life of character – is it their words? Actions? Values? Temperament? If there are multiple people, describe the qualities you take as inspiration from each of them.

4)      Identify your core values. What ideals do you strive to live up to? If you want, a simple web search for ‘core values’ will bring up lists upon lists to choose from.

5)      What’s your why? Why do you do what you do? What drives you? For more explanation and inspiration, watch THIS VIDEO.

6)      What does it look like when you’re living your best self? Be specific here. What does it look like when you act on your values? What do you need to be thinking, saying, and doing daily to ensure that the legacy you’re leaving is the legacy you want to be leaving? It might be helpful to identify a particular time when being your best self is most challenging and then writing how you want to respond in those situations instead.