Character & Mental Toughness – The Character Way vs. The Easy Way

The path to success: The Character Way vs. The Easy Way

 “If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”-Anatole France

 “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling one another.”-George Orwell

Everyone affiliated with our football program has the same goal. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, alumni, and the community at large all want the same thing from our program. They want to see us win games and produce fine young men.

So if everyone wants the same thing, why are there conflicts within the program? Why do we have frustrations between parents and their sons, coaches and players, players and players, coaches and parents, parents and parents?

I believe there are two sources of frustration. The first source of conflict is related to communication. That issue has been addressed elsewhere. The second source of conflict is the approach we take towards achieving our common goal. We all want to get to the same place….but we differ on how to get there.

The proposed routes to our common goal can roughly be boiled down to this: The Character Way or the Easy Way.

Most people choose the Easy Way, at least on occasion. Usually it is their first course of action. They do this for one of three reasons. They do not know any better, they do not give any forethought to their decision, they solely care only for themselves. The Easy Way is the simple obvious path that takes little or no effort and gives the person taking it little or no pain.

Those without courage take the simplest Easy Way which is to quit by never trying or to try some and then quit once things become uncomfortable. These people rarely play high school football or stop playing after freshmen year. These people often join activities that require less courage. Some may excel and ultimately fulfill their potential but it will never come until they truly challenge themselves. Many will never venture outside of their comfort zone.

Those who are immature believe that the Easy Way will lead them to comfort, wealth, and prosperity. They believe someone will take care of them and that they will never have to take care of themselves. They feel like things will always be given and never have to be earned. Most people eventually grow beyond this, but not until they are forced to earn their accolades and take care of themselves.

All the same, some who have courage and are mature still take the Easy Way.

Their Easy Way theoretically leads to one person (you, your son, your department, your company etc) receiving comfort, attention, accolades, wealth, popularity etc. People who take this path, and the people who encourage them, have great difficulty seeing anything wrong with taking this route. After all it requires no discussion of planning, it is still pretty painless and it layers glory on the most important person…..you or the one people you care about. Like Khufu’s driving thousands to their deaths to build himself the Great Pyramid, their Easy Way requires that everyone sacrifice…… for them.

Seldom does the Easy Way work out. Usually it ends in failure and regret. The person who takes the Easy Way fails. Their failure is that they do not reach their full human potential. The Easy Way may win in one instance but it does not teach the person the keys to True Success. True Success can be repeated. True Success can be applied to all types of situations, not just the one situation where the person may have rare natural talent or total guidance and support.

If you take the Easy Way you also fail others. It robs them of the opportunity to interact with your best self, your positive example, your caring and kindness and selfless generosity. It robs them of feeling like they should become a person of character like you. It robs them of feeling like they should help you become better as well.

Sometimes your taking the Easy Way unfortunately encourages others to look out for #1 and take the Easy Way too. It deprives everyone of the opportunity to share in True Success as a team or community. People end up surviving alone or in their small group, rather than thriving together…..as a team.

Sometimes the Easy Way actually works out, the person achieves the goal and gets the glory. However, when the Easy Way works out, it is usually because someone has rare talent (athletic, intellectual, social) or has manipulated the contest in their favor (cheated, manipulated, fooled, coerced), or has been incredibly fortunate.

The person who succeeds taking the Easy Way eventually gets revealed. The opponent’s maturity or their hard work allows them to match the person who took the Easy Way and temporarily succeeded. The person who succeeded taking the easy way tops out their natural ability or has their deceptive methods discovered.

The person who takes the Easy Way cannot repeat success in other areas of their life. The person who takes the Easy Way later regrets that they did not grow when they had the chance. They never learn to become all they can be. They never become a person who can be counted on in any situation. They never come close to reaching their potential.

Examples of the Easy Way are all around us, because many people take the Easy Way and therefore confuse it with True Success. There are endless subtle examples but here are some obvious ones.

Think of the individual who reaches the heights of political power, only to have it revealed they cheated on their taxes, or their Bar Exams, or their family.

Think of the basketball, lacrosse, or hockey player who beams with pride after a game because he has scored a bunch of times, but fails to recognize that his team lost because this great scorer didn’t play any defense or didn’t get his teammates involved in the offense.

Think of the coach who fails to take out the star player for doing something unsportsmanlike because he is afraid of losing the game, yet the player does the same thing later on in an important moment of the championship game and the team loses.

Think of the student who asks her peer, who has the same science class, but has it a previous period, about the questions on that days science test. She gets an “A“” on that particular science test, but hasn’t learned anything that will help her later on her SAT’s, the state tests or in her job interviews.

Think of the professional athlete who is a genius on the field or court or ice, but can’t stay out of trouble in the real world and has little of value to show for their career once they stop playing.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. “-Harriet Beecher Stowe

Instinctively the Easy Way leads to a sense of anxiety and even impending doom. It makes the person who takes it nervous because they instinctively know that they will ultimately have regret for not following The Character Way. The Easy Way offers immediate gratification but no prolonged solace. The person who takes it, even if they reach their goal, feels no lasting sense of satisfaction.

In contrast, the person who takes the Character Way has a profound sense of peace. They feel fulfilled that they have been their best self. They know that they can count on themselves to make the best of any situation. They know other people can count on them. They feel connected by the fact that they have made others better and allowed others to make them better. They feel like the traveler after a long and challenging trip. They may not have reached their destination, but they have learned so much along the way that their journey has surely been worthwhile. They have the confidence one only gets from having the courage to be out of their element, in order to discover and overcome their character weaknesses. They tend to sleep well at night unless of course they are too energized by the thought of the challenges of a new day.

The enemies of character are ignorance, apathy and justification. Avoid them at all costs. All will slow a person or group’s character development, or erode the character they have worked so hard to earn.

This is why character is so rare. It is much easier for people to not care, not summon their enthusiasm, and make or take excuses. All three enemies will try to drag a person or group back to being average or stop them from ever attempting to reach their potential in the first place.  One must be ever vigilant against the appearance of these enemies in our words, in our actions, and in our minds.

 “If you make people think that they are thinking, they will love you; but if you really make them think, they will hate you.”-Aristotle

 “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love” -William Wordsworth

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About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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