When looking at human nature objectively, it’s very easy to identify common flaws. In my estimation, these flaws are clustered geographically, generationally, and culturally. One seemingly universal flaw that I’ve found amongst nearly all individuals, to at least some degree of severity, is the inability to be honest and self-assessing. I personally struggle with this on a daily basis.
I coach high school football. It’s been a passion of mine for a few years now. It has allowed me to connect with student-athletes on an intimate level and impact them in ways that far supersede the field. It has also allowed me to continue my analysis of human nature from a unique perspective. Working with these young men gives insight into how pure and genuine a young mind can be. Let’s briefly flash forward to July.
As an annual tradition, our players and staff traveled to camp for a few days and nights. This allows for intensive targeting of our players. They eat, sleep, and breathe football. It becomes a mentally and physically trying time, testing our players’ fortitude and capabilities. During a team meeting, each player and coach was required to write their goal for the season onto a large poster board. Many of the players wrote quantitative and measurable goals (e.g. undefeated season, state championship, etc.). For me, however, I wanted something a bit more meaningful.
“I want to have established team of young men that are honest, self-assessing individuals.”
When it was my turn to expound upon my goal, I looked amongst the athletes and saw inquisitive stares. As I explained my rationale, I began to think. This team flaw is merely a microcosm of an enormous societal inadequacy. It’s something that, even though I’m well aware of how it plagues us, I still need to mentally free myself from its captivity. The inability to be “real” with oneself is an overwhelming detriment that keeps us all from our goals.
Each and every individual has some altered perception of self. Analogous to my athletes, we all think we’re better than we actually are in some realm of life. At times, I’m guilty of thinking I’m a better bodybuilder, teacher, or coach than I truly am. This issue transcends itself even into our daily habits. Most people think they work harder than they really do, too. We identify with a fitness community that embraces “the grind”. Everyone seems to have the perception that they work harder than everyone else and often want to feel rewarded for such. A social media post about how hard we work is great way to give ourselves the proverbial “good job”. I tell my players on a daily basis: “You don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do.” We want to pat ourselves on the back for having a good workout. You do realize there are thousands of athletes across the country that worked their tails off today too, right? Thus, we didn’t make any progress. They took a step forward as did we, hence the separation between us and mediocrity remained stagnant. I even address this issue with my 5th grade students. They often seek rewards in the form of bonus points or extra recess time for the most trivial of things, such as doing their homework. As always, I sound like a broken record; you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do.
Again, we notice more parallelism between coaching my student-athletes and the real world. Each of my players thinks they are more talented than they really are. I’m guilty as well. I’m sure my own perception on how impactful I am as a coach is far above what the reality of my impact truly is. It is a difficult pill to swallow at times. No one wants to look at the situation objectively and say “I don’t deserve to play because I’m not good enough yet” or “I didn’t get that promotion because my coworker is more qualified than me.” No one wants to face those bells.
In order to find true success and continue to take the path that will ultimately manifest in happiness, we need to be honest, self-assessing individuals. The man in the mirror is often the most difficult to face. Be real with him.