In the past few months or so, Under Armour launched their new company slogan “I Will”. This story, which has had a few twists and turns in the news, caught my attention from the very beginning as I saw the power behind those two words, “I Will”. It is such a strong slogan and so loaded, that it made me wonder who UA has working in their marketing department; maybe some highly acclaimed developmental psychologist, or quantum physicist, or maybe even the Dalai Lama? It seems to me that UA sees the evolution and direction in which sports can move for the development of individual human beings and athletes, and not just the inflation of high-profile sport stars. With the popularity and reach of UA, this one slogan could have a deep impact on athletes everywhere, if it is seen in the correct light.
So, you will have to bear with me a second as I share some history in developmental psychology. First, there is an ever evolving area in psychology with the fancy label, “Post-Autonomous Developmental Psychology”. Basically, this area of study looks at how people develop after the basic childhood stages that everyone learns about in PSY 101. Many of us believe that once we reach adulthood, then that is it and we are done growing! But, these psychologists, theories and studies in Transpersonal Psychology show that reaching adulthood is really only the beginning and that we can continue to grow and evolve towards higher levels of development throughout our entire lives.
In fact, this pursuit for each of us to grow individually should really be at the top of our priority list in life as the future of our earth and our children depend upon it. Much of our society is stuck in the same level of development as most teenagers. This is what people are seeing when they ask, “Why is our Congress behaving like a bunch of children?”. Well, that is what many of those people are on psychological, emotional and spiritual levels. They ARE children in many ways! Changing them is not the answer, though. Changing ourselves and committing to growth and development is how we can make the world a better place.
So, what does this have to do with sports and Under Armour and “I Will”? There is no one short answer for that question. This is really my passion and becoming my life’s work as I want to examine how sports is a practice and a path towards higher levels of development for human beings.
For this discussion, let’s look at the words “I” and “Will” through the eyes of one of our forefathers in Transpersonal Psychology. Roberto Assagioli was one of the first human psychologists to ever propose higher levels of development in adults back in 1910. Assagioli proposed a two stage model for adulthood in which adults could develop to higher levels. First though, he had to define what was being developed within people. As a starting point in explaining his theory, Assagioli defined “I” as being “consciousness and will”. (So, actually UA could have saved some ink on their logo and just made it “I” but it’s not quite as catchy.) Assagioli has a multi-tiered explanation of consciousness on various levels, but on its most simple terms, he is interested in the “witness” behind the I.
So, when you lift your arm in the air, who is the "I” that is lifting your arm? When you hear something, who is the “I” that is listening? When you kick a ball, or swing a bat, or score a goal, who is the “I” that did that? Where is that “I”? Assagioli would say that the I is the witness of all that. So, when you breathe right now as you read this sentence, “I” is the awareness of doing those things as you do them. Assagioli was deep man!
So, the first part of “I Will” is the idea of consciousness, awareness and witness. Furthermore, Assagioli was also very interested in “Will”. Actually, he was so interested in it, he wrote a whole book about it, entitled “The Act of Will”. As described in an article by Stuart Miller, Assagioli’s concept of will is defined as, “The will serves, quite simply, as the directing energy for all other psychological functions.” These functions include, “intuition, thinking, emotion, sensation, desire / impulse, and imagination”.
Now, how does this relate with sports? Well, as Assagioli believes, “In most cases, the discovery of the will is not so dramatic, but we do discover it in action. When we are making a physical or mental effort, when we are working against some obstacle, we can feel a power, a special energy in us, and we experience the sense of will or willing. In these cases, however, it is often mixed with a welter of impulses, desires, hopes.” If that does not make you excited about using sports as a way to self-discovery and growth, I do not know what will! Athletics are the perfect path through physical, mental and emotional challenges that can allow us to discover our own will. In the process, we can also discover our true self more fully and grow and evolve through that discovery.
So, when Under Armour says “I Will”, the meaning that I see is that we can participate in sports in this amazingly deep and powerful way. Instead of just trying to win games, or championships or trophies to be dedicated towards for (although those are important goals for us to have in order to challenge ourselves fully enough), we are growing into higher levels of development as human beings, and therefore being a gift to the world that needs us the most. When we say, “I Will” as athletes, the slogan can mean something like this, “I will participate in my chosen sport from a place of power and energy within myself that comes from a deep connection to God or source or the universe (or whatever you want to call it) through complete presence, full participation and commitment.”
I’m not sure that is what UA wants it to mean (I actually believe that they made this slogan in a way that each individual can tailor it to themselves, which is brilliant), but the power behind the meaning is immense. It transforms sports from something you “just do” into something that grows and evolves you into your highest self and way of being. To me, that is what life is all about and athletics are just a practice, or a discipline in strengthening ourselves in that way. There is truly nothing more exciting to me than this vision for athletics and for our youth! If we can evolve sports more towards this focus and pursuit, then the power and excellence that athletes would walk out into the world with, would be revolutionary.