Like many of you, this is the time of the year where we would have a little more time to hang out with our friends and catch up on each other’s lives. This has by and large been enjoyable for me with the exception of a couple of instances with my friends who are coaches.
Why do coaches have so much to complain about?
This is not a loaded question to suggest that most coaches are whiners or that it is wrong to complain.
There are many aspects of the coaching landscape that could be improved, and it is fine to vent a little. However, some coaches rant non-stop about their circumstances and the number one source of unhappiness seems to be the lack of appreciation for their work from officials and athletes.
Control Your Controllables
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel the same at times BUT, I am adamant that we should not be such suckers for recognition especially since it’s not something that is within our direct control.
You can’t control the officials and coaches who choose to criticize and even make fun of you despite your best efforts.
You can’t control athletes who are ungrateful and self-entitled.
What happens when we keep focusing on what we cannot control?
Over time, it spirals down towards helplessness and even depression! We end up becoming chronic whiners desperate for validation. Not only is this bad for our mental health, it affects the mood of the people around us including the athletes that we coach. Coaching becomes a form of drudgery and as a human being, we become ineffective and unhappy.
Is it possible to NOT expect any form of recognition?
This may sound bleak, but it is as it is. One of our core emotional needs is to feel appreciated and it is almost impossible to be selfless and do good purely for the sake of others, i.e., pure altruism. You could have given up your cushy job to help the poor, are raising funds to build a sanctuary for stray animals, or even doing missionary work for some god or deity, it is still a means to your own satisfaction.
People act in these ways because doing so affirms who they are (self-concept) and the kind of world they want to exist, thus tying self-interest and altruism together.
Is it possible to be selfish, altruistic and happy all at once?
I believe it is possible, but it’s something that we have to be constantly mindful about rather than a constant state or something that we can master. I do have some suggestions that has helped me with this struggle, and it may work for you too…
1. Take care of yourself TOO
The common advice would be to take care of yourself FIRST, rather than TOO. I do not disagree, but I feel that it creates the perception that taking care of yourself or others has to be always ranked, or that they are dichotomies.
I’d rather ask myself how I could take care of myself and others at the same time. How can I align my business and self-interests with a purpose that extends beyond myself? And when push comes to shove and I need to choose between the two, I need not always prioritize my self-interest over altruism (which is in fact also tied in with self-interest).
Bottom-line, if you take care of yourself TOO, you are less likely to feel disgruntled or “victimized” and are more likely to be able to serve as an effective coach.
2. Letting go of Expectations
First, merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen (p.s. the “Law” of Attraction is BS). Yet many of us at some point have mistakenly believed that expecting other people to behave the way we want will actually make them behave that way!
Secondly, it is impossible to have no expectations, but we can learn how to let go of expectations and refocus on what matters and what’s within our control. Very often, this involves regaining control of our thoughts and recognizing that we can’t control what others think and do (or don’t do), but we can control how we respond to them.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl
In my opinion, this is by far the most important and difficult psychological skill to learn, and it is something that we can never really master. However, it is a worthwhile pursuit since it holds the key to our mental health and happiness.
Practicing gratitude and reminding ourselves about our coaching philosophy also helps us to let go of irrational thinking and expectations. This brings me to the last point…
3. Remind yourself of your WHY
For coaches, this refers to your coaching philosophy or why you coach. Our coaching philosophy most often centers around a goal that extends beyond our self-interest (again tying in self-interest with altruism), unless of course your coaching philosophy is simply about seeking respect and recognition from others.
Reminding ourselves about our WHY helps to put challenges and irrational thoughts into perspective.
Finally, if you are caught in a situation where not only is there a lack of appreciation for the value that you bring, and your health and income suffers as a result, my suggestion would be to do yourself a favor and quit.