Consider this… you have two hours of free time (or an entire afternoon). What will you do? I believe how we spend our free time determines how our life plays out, even more so than how we show up at work. As Coach Wooden famously said, “The true test of one’s character is what one does when no one is watching.”
As the head coach for the UCLA Gymnastics team, I’ve had the honor of working with a lot of Champions, student-athletes, as well as coaches. There is a commonality amongst the ones who rise above and succeed at everything they do in life. They are curious, energetic, relentless, and driven toward improving themselves on a daily basis. They read a lot. They listen to podcasts and audio books while driving. They are in constant pursuit of more knowledge. They choose what they do in their free time with strategic intention. They plan how they will refuel, whether it be with a nap, a yoga class, a run or simply a short walk outside. They are intentional with everything they do, including the people they choose to hang out with and the conversations in which they participate. Champions rarely partake in gossip, negativity or debasing another to improve their own platform. They are exceptionally honest with themselves and with others, and most often they hold themselves to a higher standard than they do others.
Every year when the team gathers I have a conversation with them that the girls call “Miss Val’s Circle of Life.” This conversation goes through a typical day of a student-athlete and exposes how every choice she makes will either propel her toward her goals or away from them.
Champions love the game of life, regardless of whether they are alone or with others and their integrity doesn’t vary throughout the day. They simply are champions. These qualities aren’t ones they are born with as much as they are habits they hold themselves accountable to honing on a daily basis. They are the most inspiring types of people to be around because their energy is pure, positive and vibrant.
What we do in our free time is fuel to our souls just as what we eat is fuel for our bodies. To be a Champion one needs to embrace the thrill of making disciplined choices to live as a Champion… especially when no one else is watching. This may seem like a daunting un-fun way to live life, however, when taken one choice, one step at a time—the compound effect of empowering decisions can take an ordinary life to extraordinary.