Living out of who we are

February 16, 2022

By Jeff Becraft


I am a professional athlete who has yet to be discovered. And I have enjoyed catching the winter Olympics at 8:00 p.m. each evening with my wife. I am probably more of a fan of the winter Olympics than of the summer ones.

Despite my delusions, though, I am not an Olympic athlete. So, I cannot fully comprehend all of the emotions and what not of training day after day (for hours each day) to get to the Olympics and then face disappointment.

For many Olympic athletes, they themselves, their competitors, the announcers, the whole world expects them to do one thing — to perform. What does it feel like to be expected to perform and then things do not go the way you expected them?

I’m sure the hearts of most of the whole world have gone out to Mikaela Shiffrin in these Olympics. Even at a young age, she is being called the best ever in skiing. Such high expectations for this week…. by everyone. As one announcer put it, she has been under a microscope all week. And another stated, “She is so good, everyone just expects her to be automatic.”

I wonder if we have lost the humanness of athletics.

When she went down in the early goings of her first race and everyone was shocked, I commented to my wife, “Well, athletes are human.”

This made the expectations of her second race even higher. And within 5 seconds of that race, she had missed a gate and was out. Even more shock. For over 20 minutes, she sat in the snow on the side of the course. Who knows what she was thinking and feeling?

As far as I know, no one reading this is an Olympic athlete (including me), but we can face the same pressures. So let’s go a little deeper.

Each one of us can get up each morning and feel the pressure to do one thing — to perform.

This is actually a miserable way to live. I did not realize how performance-based I was until about 10 years ago when someone showed it to me.  (Feeling good if I got everything just right, feeling deflated if I didn’t, looking for the approval of others, etc.)  I had to see that our identity, our worth, and our value do not come from our performance. What we count on for our identity makes all the difference in the world. It is a transformation that I am still growing in.

Yes, I most certainly try and speak into the lives of people to go all out, to give 100%, and do your best. Excellence should be part of everything we do. We don’t want to just show up. But this should be an expression of who we really are, not simply a pressure to try and perform.

We can get up each day and try and prove ourselves… or we can get up each day and give our best because that is who we are.

One way is like a rat on a wheel. The other is glorious.


Jeff Becraft is the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].