Getting Back to “Why” You Started

The best have the ability to stay grounded in “Why” they started. Goals for people can change as people advance in their careers or on their team. However, the best have the capability to return or stay connected to their root. Everyone begins an activity, job, team, or hobby with some basic humanistic reason. They have fun, they are searching for belonging, they enjoy their teammates, they like the hard work, to make a difference, they need structure, etc…. How do I know this? What is the #1 question a parent asks a child after practice…”Did you have fun today?” This is the deep seed that is normally planted in the very beginning. Nobody joins a team saying “I am playing so I can be the most liked, most recognized, and to one day make the most money.” Humans were wired from the beginning to seek out a group for belonging, survival, and to thrive together. Our brains are centered around chemicals that reinforce these basic needs. Being a part of a team can give us a boost of Serotonin (pride, loyalty, and belonging), Oxytocin (positive social interactions), Endorphins (joy from enduring, hard work, and overcoming). However, the ultimate chemical that drives us is Dopamine (the reward chemical). The feeling we get from completing a task, a goal, being congratulated, etc. With out dopamine, we would have never been able to hunt down large animals to survive. So why do people get away from ‘Why” they started?

The further we get away from “Why” we started, the harder it is to remember “Why” we started. People begin to experience success and failure based on their performance. The feeling we get from dopamine is incredibly addictive. This is why people become so attached to social media and those little happy feelings you get every time someone likes an Instagram or Twitter post. This is also why my kids totally freak out when I take their phone away. This dopamine rush is not long lasting and why it is pursued over and over. Have you ever heard someone say,”I just do not enjoy playing anymore or it is not fun anymore.” The reality is that the game or what they are doing has not changed, but your reasons for participating have changed. The fruit that comes from your original root can taste ever so sweet… The fruits of recognition, reward, notoriety, popularity, and status. And over time…. these things become the reason why we participate…. We are so focused on the fruit, that our root dies, and if the fruit is not present… Then we begin to become obsessed with comparisons, look for a different environment, become paralyzed in our feelings, or even quit. We stop focusing on the positives we get from pride, hard work, and being a part of a team. Our focus shifts to the rewards we may or may not get from our participation.

You should not feel guilty if this is you…. The struggle is more natural than out of pure selfishness. This is especially hard for those genetically gifted, who have had easy or early success. They have not had to depend as much on hard work, others for success, or overcoming/ enduring at a high level. From the beginning, their dopamine reward center is being boosted based on their performance and future potential. Their reasons for playing become strongly and naturally connected to their success. Hard work, commitment, and dedication is now tied to them having even more success. This can be especially difficult if your “Inner Circle” is attached to your success as well. They feed off of their association with you and will reinforce the behaviors that help maintain their status. I have watched people constantly reinforce someone’s potential and not the behaviors it takes to reach that potential. If we are not careful, this becomes our identity, and we are no longer working for our internal development but our external reinforcement. This is another reason why people experience a depressive state when that dopamine craving is not satisfied. When we operate off of reward… only 2 things can happen… Entitlement or Victimhood…. Either you are receiving what you feel like you deserve or you become a victim of not receiving what you deserve.

It is best if a deep satisfaction for hard work, being a part of a team, and overcoming happens before success. This helps us develop an internal pride based off of our performance. However, even if this is present, it is still difficult to not be swayed by the rewards. I have been guilty of this several times in my career. I have lost sight of “Why” I coach and focused more on accomplishing goals, people’s opinions, or winning. I have found myself in this miserable cycle of ups and downs. I began coaching with 3 “Why” reasons: I wanted to make a difference in lives, provide an unbelievable experience, and bring value to the team’s success. The thought of becoming a successful head coach was a goal, but seemed very distant and was not my main focus. As time has gone, I have accomplished goals, my goals have changed, but I have always had to re-center myself as to “Why” I started… And to remind myself that the reasons “Why” will always be the root of any success. I have found the most peace when I get back to my fundamentals; my original reasons. This is why in college recruiting, a very key question is always “Do you love Football and ‘Why?” That a strong foundation has to be present for the player to develop and become their best version for the program.

In close, we will always have pressures in this world. However, remember that pressure is determined by what you are trying to please… Either you are trying to please your internal standards, your team standards, or external expectations. The more we focus on rewards, the more we are trying to please the external. This is like living our life on credit cards; things get out of our control, life becomes unrealistic, and expectations are unforgiving. We focus more on losing our status than losing our pride and integrity. When our pressure comes from meeting our internal or team standards; our focus shifts to our preparation (did I cover everything) and to our effort (did I give my all for my team). You learn to embrace the external struggle and find your solace and confidence in your internal being…. My son writes on his taped wrist on game day, Psalm 118:10 “All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.” This fires me up every time….. Negative pressure is outside of yourself…. Positive pressure comes from inside and from those that truly care for you. Remember there is nothing wrong with goals and they are much needed. Goals help align our decisions, but goals should never separate us from “Why” we do it. The sweetest fruit is only nourished from the root. I encourage you to write these things down on your desk, put as your phone screensaver, or have an accountability partner that you discuss with periodically. Consistently revisit:

  1. “Why” did I start?
  2. How can I serve?
  3. How can I develop?
  4. What are my goals for my future?

“I want to live a life that deserves an explanation… That ponders people to ask “Why” was he able to live in such a way…” -Unknown


Matt Kandler:

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