We all have certain things in life that drives us. Whether it be a hobby, career, sport, nutrition, passion, etc. These all have an influence on how we go about our lives and daily routines, which can translate into our purpose in living. Sometimes we get to choose our purpose, other times our purpose chooses us. I was fortunate enough to hear a story in which an individual’s purpose has seemed to choose him. This opportunity was an incredible reminder to always take life on full force; to take what you are given and make something out of it.
I was recently invited by one of my clients to sit in on a presentation from an incredibly inspiring individual, Travis Roy. Roy recently paid a visit to Wilbraham Monson Academy to share his story with the students and faculty. He is most commonly known as a philanthropist and former hockey player. He is also the author of the book Eleven Seconds, which is how his story all began.
Ever since Roy was able to walk he was laced up and spent his days in the local hockey rink in Maine where he grew up. From then on, it became his whole life. Dedicating most of his time to working on and perfecting his skills, he longed to make it to the big leagues. Being a very goal oriented individual he created a list of his three goals he wanted to obtain; 1. Play Division 1 Hockey; 2. Make the NHL; 3. Become an Olympic Hockey Player. Go big or go home, right? He went on to accept an offer from Boston University.
Sometimes, we choose our challenges and dreams, and if we’re really lucky, we can reach them, But there are other times in life when the challenges simply choose us, and it’s what we do in the face of the challenges that defines who we are.
As the first season rolled around he got the news that he would be playing in the first game, a dream come true for him. However, his reality of those goals came to an abrupt halt. After 11 seconds of stepping onto the ice, Roy slid head first into the boards cracking his fourth and fifth vertebra, leaving him a quadriplegic. When the accident occurred his family came down to the ice and his first words where; 'Dad, I'm in big trouble.' followed by 'But Dad, I made it,'" he recalled. "It was the best 11 seconds of my life to realize that dream." From the second after the injury took place you already knew the positive impact he would make with an attitude like that. Yet, you can imagine the heartbreak, disappointment, and anger that must have set in. Roy explained some days and weeks were extremely dark. Going from playing a sport he loved every day to never being able to play ever again takes a toll on someone.
However, these circumstances were not going to stop him. He decided to set new goals. From being able to actually use his wheelchair on his own to ones that have transformed other lives. He started the Travis Roy Foundation as motivation to use his situation as a way to help others in similar situations. Raising more than 10 million dollars already and aiding families. He travels across the country to speak and motivate others. He credits that a lot of this was possible with the hope, compassion, and loyalty of all his family, friends, even strangers he has had by his side through this journey. Determination and will are two forces that can be unstoppable when you set your mind to something.
No matter what the situation, you can always control your emotions on it. One of his famous quotes reads; “Sometimes, we choose our challenges and dreams, and if we’re really lucky, we can reach them,” Roy said. “But there are other times in life when the challenges simply choose us, and it’s what we do in the face of the challenges that defines who we are. More often than not, the challenges choose you. But from sports and my teachers, I learned to never give up, no matter how bad things went. You always have to have the desire to get back up.”
Roy works day in and day out to pursue his purpose and better the lives of others. I know that I struggle every time I am asked that question; What is your purpose? It stumps me. Partly because I do not think I have truly discovered it as Roy has. You can love sports, love humans, love jobs, love experiences, but it is not always clear what you are supposed to do with that. In our profession we live each day trying to better someone’s physical (I know for me a lot of the times mental) state so that they are able to lead a better life themselves doing what drives them. If doing what you love was ever taken away from you, as Hockey was from Roy, can you pursue it in another way? Love and passion for something is what translates into your purpose. These types of experiences reveal what truly matters in life. Sometimes when we are fortunate to have all of these goals at the tips of our fingers we bypass the importance of the little things. The little things, turn into the big things. No matter what the condition something can always be done, and as Roy says “new goals can always be set.”
He explains that he lived his first half of his life with passion and his second half with purpose. Funny how those two can overlap for some or lead one to the other, all based on the individual. I share this story and experience with you to challenge you to take a look into your own life. How are you living it? Personally I know I am going to look hard and long at the goals I have set. I encourage you not to wait for the new year to approach and to go after what drives you. Tomorrow is never promised and life is always changing. What goals are you setting today? Go out and get them - Be About It.