The thin line between sympathy and excuses

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Embracing your own role as a coach.

I often think about the thin line that exists between being lenient and demanding more. Coaches think about this all the time. Imagine sleepy student-athletes that wake up hours before their peers just to get a workout in. You know they’re tired, but does that mean you should tell them to take it easy?

The somewhat sad state of affairs is that for most of life, we don’t have these external circumstances that push us to become better. We simply lose the peers, teachers, and mentors who pressure us into doing more than we thought we could. Consider the most elite athletes and the most successful CEOs in the world. Do you know how many coaches they have? Even Michael Jordan refused to play without his coach Phil Jackson. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a coach. However, I believe that adopting the mentality of being your own coach, your own advocate, is achievable and gives a massive return on investment.

Why don’t we push?

We think we’re not good enough, or not talented enough, or not special enough. Or maybe, we’re just tired. But I have news for you, becoming special happens every time you decide to do it. It’s about showing up, day in and day out. In fact, it never really feels easier, you simply get better. Yes, you will need breaks and you will feel tired at times, but that is a part of the grind, too. It doesn’t really matter what you’re pushing for, whether it’s losing weight, excelling at your job, or simply trying to find the will to make it through the day, the first steps along the path are all the same.

Take some basic lifestyle choices as an example. Many of us might feel inadequate about our diet, our exercise, our sleep, especially during pandemic times. We look in envy at those who have somehow managed to maintain a sense of routine and, dare I say, even a level of fitness. Here’s the thing, though, I doubt anyone is missing the “secret” to any of these things. But there’s a sharp distinction between what is easy and what is straightforward. Although it might not be easy, the fact that it is straightforward means that anyone can do it.

It may seem dismissive of external circumstances to tell people to just “suck it up” and work harder. The message is not that you are lazy, but instead that we all have the capacity to do more than we believe. The ability to evaluate for ourselves whether we want to show up is the first step. Turning that switch on in your mind may only make a difference once a week or once a month, maybe even once a year, but the hustle adds up.