February 9

The Power of Relationships and Purpose in Life

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

I had the opportunity this past Saturday to hear former Chicago Bear Desmond Clark speak about how he overcame growing up in a family broken apart by drugs and what he has learned from his life experiences.

As a tight end for the Bears in 2006, he helped the team win the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

As a kid growing up in Lakeland, Florida, he told the more than 200 of us attending a Knights of Columbus gathering at Holy Family in Inverness, two of the people that had the biggest influence on his life were his father and oldest brother. His father was on drugs; his brother was selling drugs.

He talked about the decision he made when one of his friends tried to recruit him into the world of being a drug dealer.

Rather than follow in his brother’s and his friend’s footsteps, he made a promise to his mother that he would be successful.

“It’s funny, how when you make a decision to be successful,” he said, “things start to fall into place.”

He gave a lot of credit to coaches who looked out for him and who wouldn’t let him quit.

“If I can do it,” he said, “anybody can.” Playing in the NFL, “I was always the smallest, slowest, weakest tight end.” Yet as a Chicago Bear, he ranks second all-time in tight end receptions. He trails only Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.

Based on his life experiences, he cited six principles of winning in life.

  1. All you have is your word.
  2. Understand the power of relationships.

Life is all about people. It is all about community. Having great relationships starts with you.

  1. If you want to become a champion, you have to do the small, mundane things better than the competition.
  2. Precise practice leads to perfect performance.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard every day.

  1. Be self-motivated.

Quit comparing yourself to others. Pick one thing each day you want to get better at and work on it.

  1. Have a purpose in life and ignite that purpose.

Life has ways of knocking us off course. If you have a purpose, you have reason to get back up.

From my experience, two of the principles are particularly applicable to older adults – understanding the power of relationships and community and having a sense of purpose in life.

Research indicates that having a sense of purpose can add years to your life.

And as psychologist, author and social science columnist for the Wall Street Journal Susan Pinker notes in a TED Talk video from August of 2017, your social life may be your secret to living longer.

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