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The Limits of Hard Work

We seem to have an obsession with hard work. Don’t get me wrong I am a big believer in immersing yourself in whatever it is that you desire mastery and success. However, if effort was evaluated like money are we truly investing our energy wisely? MY opinion is that we need to reinvent our charge in order to progress potential. This is the type of question that I ponder often. I hear parents and coaches often speak words that reflect the sentiment of raising the energy and bringing better work ethic to the situation. Have you ever reflected on this and wondered if we have overused this concept to the point of numbing those we seek to charge by trying to elevate their energy or work ethic?


There are (3) vital concepts that require significant attention as it relates to continuing to help others reach elevated levels of achievement and performance.

First, the concept of PURPOSE. We all know that motivation, to be long standing and productive, begins with answering the question WHY? Why do I want to invest the time and energy into the activity before me? What do I gain? How will this bring value to me? Unfortunately, we have taught our young people to disregard these questions either because we do not value them or we have this notion if you play on a team that your self interest takes a back seat to the team or the others in the group. This is a tragic and costly error in judgement. Encouraging individuals to truly explore the question of why can provide significant value leading to enhanced levels of energy, heightened resilience in the midst of struggle, along with the inner clarity to immerse oneself significantly without the need to have the approval of others. Isn’t this what we want out of our young people?

Second, a HEIGHTENED emphasis on GROWTH and LEARNING over short term accomplishment or achievement. Again, people will say, “Shaun don’t you think that people need accomplishment and success to experience and grow confidence?” My answer is simple, “Yes and NO.” When there is too much of an emphasis on winning without learning and growth then people begin to feel like failing and experimenting are inappropriate and THESE VITAL EXPERIENCES become extinct leaving many without a growth and learning construct needed when experiencing disappointment and discouragement. In other words, many people have become addicted to regular achievement and accomplishment at the expense of growth and learning. Over time this equation leaves the individual with a real sense of anxiety and more importantly inadequately equipped to deal with REAL LIFE.

Third, is  STRENGTH LEVERAGE. Ask anyone participating in a sport and you will hear something that goes like this concerning the desire for heightened performance: “I need to work on my weaknesses.” Working on weaknesses as a means to heightened performance is inefficient, unproductive and consistently proven to be a poor mental construct for long term success. I think we have become lazy concerning this concept. It is markedly easier to notice what needs work than it is to become more creative about how to leverage what you are already really skilled at. I often wonder what would happen if we coached our kids this way. What if they went to practice and every person was dialed into their strengths and encouraged to utilize them to the fullest with very little emphasis, if any, on what is a weakness. Can you imagine a coach looking at a person on the bench or sidelines and with emotional intensity saying, “You are so good at______________. Trust it and go for it! I know you can do it! “If you do not use that strength we will have to go without it as a team and we cannot do well unless you trust your ability is this area. Next time you have that chance go for it”! I know that a person would thrive with that kind of CHARGE from a coach or parent.

Let’s let go of being mentally robotic and lazy about helping those around us experience heightened levels of excellence. Buying into the “HARD WORK” mantra without taking into account PURPOSE, GROWTH, LEARNING, and LEVERAGING STRENGTHS is a vital error and is costing us seeing the advancement and development of those around us. Sports provide a great place for us to challenge people to reach for their potential and have profoundly impactful experiences.

Copyright © 2019 Shaun Goodsell