Is there something you really, really want to do, but find yourself not doing it? And as much as you’d like to do it, you don’t follow through with your desires because of a sense of perceived limitations that keep you from enjoying that very thing? And if you are being honest with yourself, are those limitations true limitations, or are they simply risks you aren’t willing to take, and haven’t thought about effectively managing?
Recently I found myself asking myself these types of questions. Let me tell a story.
I used to play ice hockey as a teenager and did so through highschool. It was something I was passionate about, and I highly enjoyed the game. But then I became an adult, went to college, and started my career.
All my competing interest and limited free time made playing hockey all but practically impossible. I had too much going on, didn’t live near the rink, and simply didn’t have any more room in my life to play. And while I might occasionally go ice skating when trying to impress a date, there was simply no room in my life to play ice hockey.
But playing competitively in an adult “beer league” recreational hockey simply wasn’t a viable option in my life. I was working 50-60 hours a week, involved in church, trying to date, and just didn’t have the free time to commit to playing hockey. My excuses for not playing it were legitimate. My schedule and pace of life simply didn’t allow for it. I was committed to things that were simply more valuable to me at the time.
But as I got older, and as my personal and professional life stabilized, I finally had more free time. I started dreaming about playing hockey again.
But this time, instead of having legitimate excuses about the limitations I had in my life, I started looking at the risks associated with playing hockey again.
I started thinking about the fact I was in my 30’s, and was out of shape. Most professional hockey players stop playing the game in their 30’s because of their bodies aging them out of their careers. And so I reasoned, if a professional athlete, who has an entire group of trainers, coaches, and doctors , can no longer play, then how is it that I can do so?
After all, I’m over 30, am overweight, and could easily get injured! And what if that injury was more than something that took an ice pack and sone aspirin to recover from? And what if I got seriously injured and that impacted my ability to work? How would I provide? How would I pay for my mortgage? How would that impact my marriage?
So for years, I reasoned like this, and saw them as reasonable excuses why I couldn’t play hockey again. And then a couple years ago I broke my leg playing volleyball with a bunch of teens in the church parking lot.
That all but put a nail in the coffin for the reasons why I couldn’t play hockey anymore! “Hockey is a young man’s game!” I would tell myself and others over and over again.
But then something happened.
I moved to a new home less than a mile from the rink I played hockey at in high school. Such immediately put an itch inside me. I started dreaming of playing again. But I just knew with all the risks, I couldn’t.
But I still had this itch inside. And finally, it got to me. I decided to grab my old skates and go ice skating with a buddy that I used to play hockey with!
And it… was… glorious.
Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t skated in 10 years, so my skating was very poor to say the least! But the feel of the cool air blowing across my face as I moved swiftly-ish down the ice just lit a fire inside of me.
And for the next couple of days, all I could do was dream about playing hockey again. I examined my old gear, looked into some new gear, and checked when it would be possible to play.
Then one evening as I was researching some hockey equipment online, my excitement level spilled over and I found myself clicking the “Buy Button.”
What did I just do!?!
Don’t I know about all the bad things that could possibly happen to me if I play hockey again? I just turned 40 years old! And while I’ve recently lost some weight, I’m still a big guy! And my skills are extremely rusty! There’s no way I will be able to play competitively!
And then it dawned on me. I was making excuses, and I’m simply tired of making excuses! For far too long I’ve been imposing limitations on myself, when what I should have been doing is identifying the risks associated with playing ice hockey as an adult, and then taking reasonable steps to manage that risk!
Often, we confuse the two because the fears of what could go wrong keep us from acting on the things we want to do. We allow the fears of the associated risks to keep us forever on the sidelines. But in truth, the risks we often identify aren’t actual limitations, but simply risks we need to identify, manage, and mitigate.
At 40 years old, I have to recognize I am no longer a spring chicken. Playing hockey again will require some modification. I cannot play at the level I played at when I was 17 years old. But… I can still play, and people my age and older do so every single day. Of course, I will need to adjust my game. And I will need to give extra attention to diet, exercise, and things to help me become more limber.
But, playing hockey again at 40 is indeed possible. It’s not just a “young man’s game.” It’s a game I can play again, so long as I’m realistic about identifying the risks, and taking the proper steps to reduce the associated risks.