September is a month where anybody associated with schools is looking ahead at another year of development for themselves or a child they know. Many are looking at what they could possibly achieve. They are planning for something better than they currently know and their hope of achievement signals their aspirational intent.
My Aspiration for the year is to help my mentees reach their potential and achieve their aspirations. Naturally I prepare by reading their referrals and considering mentoring methods…
But there is something missing …
So, it’s 11pm on a Sunday evening and I am raiding my loft looking for the games of my childhood that might inspire the next generation of children.
Then it hits me in the face… Battleships literally fell off the self and hit me between the eyes. This game could be the perfect way to get young people to understand targets and goals. What if two ships were removed. What if the remaining three ships, resembled the goals we have for ourselves – the goal for today (the destroyer – smallest ship), the goal for the month of September (the Submarine), The goal for the next year or when we grow up (if we ever decide to!) (the Aircraft Carrier). The hope we have in battleships is that our ships (or in this case goals) remain intact and unaffected by the enemy.
This then goes beyond a game of battleships and becomes a game of seeking to discover the goals of the person opposite and the kind of things that might destroy/ damage their chances of achieving those goals. The kinds of things that start to make us give up hope of achieving our goals. Hope in what can be achieved keeps us aspirational, when hopelessness leaves us unmotivated and uninspired through an overwhelming feeling of sunkenness.
One mentee (who for safeguarding sake will be called Billy) has the aspiration of becoming a world-famous runner or boxer and can identify the goals needed to get him to that place. Billy can be described as aspirational, when another mentee (George) struggles to aspire to complete a goal even in his next lesson. However, both are in danger of being sunk.
For Billy’s aspiration is wrapped up in the opinions of other people. There are extremely successful boxers and runners who aren’t world famous. Iwan Thomas is a European Gold medallist in the 400 metres but it took him starving on an island in the Pacific Ocean with Bear Grylls, before I could recognise who he was. You could argue that he was more famous when he won his medal in 1998 but that simply means that unless Billy reaches the heights of Usain Bolt or appears in a variety of TV shows, his achievement of his aspiration is likely to be short lived or remain unachieved. A shorter-term goal of his was to lose weight because of the way he looked in the mirror. Billy made me realise that whilst it is great to be aspirational, it can also be damaging if what we aspire to achieve creates negativity.
What if Billy aspired to being successful rather than world famous? This success could be qualified and the achievement basked in. What if Billy aimed to become fitter to make playing sports more enjoyable, rather than losing weight to be aesthetically pleasing? What would be the benefit emotionally if he had positive aspirations rather than negative aspirations?
In asking myself these questions, to help Billy, I was forced to face my own aspirations. I aspire to be valued by people in my life, I aspire to lose weight to become aesthetically pleasing to myself and others (and truthfully always have), and I aspire to be a better version of myself in a year’s time than I am now. People, and their opinions, come and go, weight is gained and lost, and if I am always wanting to be better, then how can I ever be happy with how I am now? These aspirations. The hope of achieving these goals, has led me to many a dark hour and many negative decisions.
Then comes the stark realisation than none of these aspirations are what God wants for my life or anybody else’s life. God did not make human kind in order that we be valuable and pleasing to each other. God did not make human kind so that we should sit in the dark oppressed by the expectations and pressures of this world. No… as Paul writes:
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9
Paul writes about the day when Jesus will return and the difference between those who are saved and those who are not in a relationship with the living God. But this theme extends to how to live life. On that day, what will be your most important achievement? How will your six pack look in comparison to the light of Christ? Will it matter? Will fame save any person? Will money buy a Lamborghini spaceship that can reach heaven?
No, the most important aspiration is achieving a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result, we should set ourselves goals that strengthen this relationship. If you need a place to start, Jesus (in Matthew 22: 37-38) gives us two important goals:
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
It is time for me to go and reassess my aspirations. Which of your aspirations need adjusting to result in positive decisions and goals? Which of your aspirations align with God’s hope for your life?
Sports Coach & Mentor | Kick London