Athletes devote and optimize themselves to be their very best, every single day. As an athlete, your main job is to build a character and identity as a form of power and influence — often putting your body and mind on the line for this type of self-mastery.
Athletes share this very important quality of self-mastery with some of the world’s most influential social and spiritual leaders, but on a different journey — almost the exact opposite: social and spiritual leaders let go of their identity and optimize for impact and service to humanity. Power and influence are the side effect of that journey.
The level of devotion is similar for both, but where they draw a sharp distinction is in the perception of self. Identity, as most of us perceive it, is just a collection of mental, emotional, and physical conditioning we perceive to be oneself and misidentified as “me” — as we explored here last time. This can be a very harsh reality for athletes and former athletes, because the more important our career is for us, the more we derive our sense of identity from it and never question our sense of self.
While any person that masters themselves with high commitment is inspiring — the leader that overcomes themselves in service of humanity helps others master themselves as well.
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu
But how do you do this? In theory, this sounds miraculous and the answer we may be seeking.
How can you overcome yourself in service to humanity?
You overcome yourself in service to humanity by transcending the false perception of self which ends your identification with fear, judgment, insecurities, and self-doubt.
This process, which has endless ways, is most commonly and efficiently developed through practices like self-inquiry, meditation, mindfulness, and contemplative thought. In that process, you will grow the recognition of your true nature as pure awareness, ever-present, no longer as the mind-body identity with its self-imposed limitations.
There are two important insights you will develop on your journey to overcoming yourself in service to humanity:
1. I am beyond the mind-body: I am awareness. I am ever-present. I am joy, peace, and freedom. I am unconditional trust. I am unconditional love.
2. The purpose I serve is far greater than the mind’s doubts and judgments so I do not let them get in my way of being of service. I recognize that continuing to hold myself back from service is a selfish activity by itself; it is derived from the mind’s false perception of self and so I do not let the mind’s fears, judgments, doubts, and insecurities hold me back from being of service. When I act in alignment with my true nature, I serve selflessly and unconditionally because my true nature is selfless and unconditional.
We spend decades trying to form our identity, but it’s only when we let go of our identity that we are free.
As a society, we build many myths around what social and spiritual leader figures look like. As much as almost anyone else on this planet, I was always fascinated by these two; Buddha and Jesus.
I do not look at spirituality from a religious lens. Religion is, at best, one of many ways of practicing spirituality and participating in a spiritual community as much as there are many ways to practice sports and participate in sports communities.
If we step away from all the myths, they are not any different than you, and you have the power to influence such a change as well.
What would the next generation of social and spiritual leaders look like?
Spiritual and social leaders don’t need to wear a robe, follow a religion, convert to a certain ideology, preach, or hold a position of power.
They walk among us, they can be creative and fun, wearing a t-shirt or a quirky suit. It is not their physical form but their spirit and heart that have the power to heal, transform, and liberate others.
It is their understanding of their true nature as ever-present awareness that guides them to illuminate the path for others into their true nature and potential.
And so how can you continue to let go of the current identity you have right now to be in service to humanity?