Professional Athletes to Navy SEALs: 5 Common Fears Experienced During Transition and Change

In Life by Joe SweeneyLeave a Comment

I have been blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to work with and mentor a number of high performing business executives, professional athletes and members of the Navy SEALs on the topics of change and transition. My interactions with these individuals and teams have led me to wonder why some high performers can win back-to-back most valuable player awards or complete grueling military training; however, when confronted with periods of transition, they struggle with common fears. Perhaps what is most interesting about this period of transition is that professional athletes, business executives, and top military personnel seem to struggle with five very similar challenges.

  1. They feel the best years are behind them.

Many times, the people I work with struggle to understand how to find something they are passionate about so that the next phase of their life is as meaningful as the past. National championships, military missions, and prosperous business ventures are all great moments of success, but these moments can make it difficult to imagine that the best is yet to come.

When I talk to these individuals, I let them know that it is important to remember that accomplishments of the past should stand as a testament of their ability to strive and achieve, and moreover, propel them forward into the next adventure of their choosing. The important point is to find meaning and passion in something new and seek out the next successful venture.

  1. They fear they will never find something as meaningful.

When you are living and breathing continuous moments of meaning, adrenaline and success, it can be hard to imagine returning to the normalcy of day-to-day life. Protecting freedom and liberty on a military mission or entertaining millions of people each day on television, are difficult experiences to replicate in regular civilian life. This is why many SEALs and professional athletes face the fear of finding meaning in the next phase of their lives.

Just as in our personal life, leaning on friends and colleagues who you trust and value can play a critical role in the path that we set forth for ourselves. When someone experiences a roadblock or difficulties during a time of transition, I often recommend creating your own personal board of directors – or what I like to call ‘Wingmen and Wingwomen.’ This group is not only made up of people you trust and enjoy spending time with, they are people whose opinions and expertise you value. Your wingmen and wingwomen can help guide your decisions and provide recommendations that will open doors for the next opportunity that will create meaning in your life.

  1. They have fear and insecurity about finances.

During their careers, athletes and SEALs often have great financial stability: whether is it life on a military base where major expenses, like rent and food are covered, or high signing bonuses and salaries in professional sports leagues. The fear these individuals share is that financial stability does not always follow them once they transition into new careers.

Moreover, not all professional athletes make millions of dollars. The average career in the NFL is 3.2 years, and while the income is high for those short years, athletes must find a way to make that money last. Many athletes establish high spending habits when they have strong cash flows and have a hard time cutting back on their expenses once their athletic careers end.

The ability to alter one’s financial state is possible if the correct actions are taken. Financial goal setting and establishing a clear path with direct, deliberate choices are essential steps to reach financial stability.

  1. They wonder how to maintain their lifestyle, and what they will do with the rest of their life.

Life in the military or on a sports team is regimented. With the financial stability and schedule that accompany these careers, it is easy to become accustomed to a specific lifestyle. The ability to maintain this lifestyle, however, can be difficult once the career of a professional athlete or SEAL changes course.

Creating a have, do and be list involves goal setting and establishing the type of person you want to be. Creating a have, do, and be list can make it easier to see what your ideal life looks like, and the steps necessary to get there and attain a desirable lifestyle.

  1. They have a fear of networking.

Taught and trained to network within the team or league, athletes and SEALs are often concerned about how to network outside of their inner circles. There is a strong team atmosphere and brotherhood in professional sports and in the military, one that is difficult to duplicate outside of the huddle, especially in a business or organization. Moreover, when you are no longer in the limelight as a hero, celebrity or athlete, many people may treat you differently. These individuals wonder how they will fit in and whether they will be given the same amount of interest and attention in a new career.

When I teach about the concepts and principles of networking, I always describe it as a place you go to give, not to get. When you meet people, take the time to learn their stories. Look for ways that you can offer to help long before you ask for a favor. The concept of engaging others with an attitude of giving, not getting, will enrich your relationships and your life.

If you’ve been hoping to gain much-needed traction at work and in your personal life, or if you face fears in your periods of transition and change, Joe Sweeney will show you how to move forward. His book Moving the Needle and the corresponding program, The Winning Game Plan, are focused on modifying behavior to reach, sustain, and surpass your objectives.