False Prophets abound.
Especially in the fitness industry, which may appear to be a false prophet breeding pen, depending on the season.
I gave up on commenting on other people’s social media statuses, for the most part. Especially when it comes to coaching, and the psychology behind it all. Point blank: I found myself engaged in a plethora of futile semantic arguments concerning whether various forms of media were “inspirational” or “motivational”, while simultaneously understanding that I was sweeping the proverbial dirt floor, and, ultimately, wasting my fucking time.
Oftentimes, I’m misconstrued, as a coach and as a mammal. As I’ve said many times before, my Sport Psych degree is a Bachelor of Arts. This causes people to toss the science out the window and engage in a troubling behavior that I have dubbed: “Just making shit up.” Indeed, there is an art to coaching, and life as a whole, but that doesn’t mean we eschew entire scientific frameworks. Or worse – assume that they don’t even exist. But it happens, and I don’t have enough time in my day to address each instance I run into, nor do I have the motivation to.
See what I did there?
Of course, this results in the aforementioned memes, which cause people to assume (quite wrongly) that my coaching and leadership is a blend of sunshine and rainbows sprinkled with false-positivity and delusions. I mean, if I have a Sport Psych education, I must be SUPER positive.
Yet, while I wouldn’t accuse myself as being unnecessarily harsh, I AM pointedly realistic. As any coach should be.
In fact, the ability to have difficult coaching conversations and be realistic with athletes should be celebrated, but there is cadre of “FitPros” out there bent on making people believe that we should be willing to tackle any goal or dream we have, regardless of the difficulty or practicality. Even patently absurd goals.
I talked about this in a video you can find on my Facebook feed, as well as my article about Optimal Challenge and Flow.
I encourage you to at LEAST read the Flow article, but the TL/DR version: Goals we set should be appropriate based on degree of challenge relative to skill level: too easy means boredom, to difficult means goal abandonment.
I see absolutely nothing ‘negative’ about working to develop robust enough self-awareness to be cognizant of what we are capable of realistically achieving…as well as what we are NOT capable of reaching at a given point in time. Let me be clear: this doesn’t mean that I think all difficult goals should be avoided, but rather they should be approached at the proper time. In fact, oftentimes while we are blindly shooting for the moon and hoping we will precisely land at a goal that far away, we are overlooking simple, actionable process items that can guarantee forward progress.
Unfortunately, there are no shortages of False Prophets, ‘The Secret’ followers, or ‘Manifestation’ shitheads out there that will honestly lead people to believe that they can do anything they focus on. Literally…anything. My favorite retort to this comes from the world of bodybuilding – No matter how hard I work out or how many drugs I take, I will never look like Phil Heath. In this case, no, I absolutely CANNOT do anything I “set my mind to”. This is generally well understood from a physiological standpoint, but there are also genetic factors to attributes such as intelligence, resilience, etc.
Still think you can “do anything”? Its okay that you can’t, you know. Being realistic allows you to REALLY achieve things, vice chase pipe dreams.
So why, you might ask, does this get me so damned riled up? I mean, can’t I just live and let live?
I want to. Really.
Unfortunately, the Positivity False Prophets put me in a precarious place:
They create situations where I have to pick up athletes, brush them off, and explain to them that their lack of awareness is holding them back, that their goal-setting was unrealistic, that they might not actually have the ability to reach that far-out, arbitrary, lofty goal. Instead of contrived cheerleading (which is NOT coaching, by the way), I have to be real, raw and honest…
This means that I become the “asshole”. At least for a while.
Eventually, the dust settles, self-awareness is found, real and relevant goals are set, and progress is made, but in the meantime, I’m stuck mopping up someone else’s mess.
This is irritating, to say the least, and it often makes me ponder the psychology of coaches who perpetuate this nonsense…which I will explore in another article.