When you play sports there are many things you never want to hear your coaches say. “Everybody on the line,” “No one leaves until it’s done right,” and “Conditioning starts at 5 a.m.” were among the most dreaded phrases I heard as a player, but there were none I hated more than, “Stop going through the motions, Gura.”
Going through the motions means participating in something without committing to it completely, showing little to no enthusiasm for the tasks at hand and taking the little things for granted. It’s like going to the gym and using two pound weights when you’re capable of lifting twenty. Regression is inevitable.
My coaches, who were mostly right to call me out during practices when my heart wasn’t in it, insisted my performance was uninspired and lacked dedication and ambition. They implied that I only showed up to the field to do what was necessary—the bare minimum required of me—to get through the drills and go home. Instead of devoting the energy and focus needed to improve my game and build cohesion with my teammates, I was coasting on autopilot until practice reached its end. My mind was elsewhere. I wasn’t invested in the process.
I kick myself to this day for not putting forth a better effort.
Improvement Cannot be Made When Going Through the Motions
The best thing about sports is their lessons have real-world applications. Everything one needs to know about life can be learned on the baseball diamond (my sport of choice). It teaches us the value behind teamwork, how to build confidence and navigate adversity, and how going through the motions may be enough to get by, but not enough to sustain lasting success or fulfillment.
It’s funny, the phrase I hated most as a kid became one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.
We tend to go through the motions when life settles into a routine. Consistent repetition of events lulls us into a sense of comfort and security until our brains operate autonomously. Often, we find our bodies moving on their own, steering itself on muscle memory. How many commutes have you travelled without recalling how you reached your destination? How many breakfasts have you eaten only to forget what you had by lunch? How much paperwork was finished without you realizing half a day was gone?
The above happens to everyone. Repetition enables our autopilot systems.
The concept is the same in baseball. Swinging a bat thousands of times, repeating the same drills practiced since tee-ball (baseball for five-year-olds), and fielding grounders until every pebble in the sand is accounted for leads to the same phenomenon. We become accustomed to the familiar, causing us to check out mentally. We separate ourselves from the present and depend on our subconscious to take over the controls. Once this happens, we tend to stop taking pride in our work and lose appreciation for doing the small things. Our focus wanes and we forget our fundamentals, letting the ball bounce right between our legs (for you non-baseball readers, know that letting a ground ball go through your legs is enough to get you benched).
Stagnation, indifference, and failure start when we allow our minds to drift from the present.
Unfortunately, if it continues unchecked, going through the motions can creep into every aspect of our lives. It can slow or halt progress and hinder our ability to develop our potential. It can cause us to blindly accept the convenience, comfort, and reliability of the status quo, pulling us deeper into a mindless trance where little effort is needed to survive. Furthermore, it tends to distract us from what is most important in our lives. Our enthusiasm to live and thrive depletes, sucking the joy out of almost everything we do. Our work ethic suffers, we feel our loved ones grow distant, and what’s left is a shell of a person reacting to stimuli with automated responses.
How many empty hugs have you given? How many I love you’s were spoken out of habit; a conditioned response with no meaning behind it? How many moments did you not remember because you weren’t really there?
Going through the motions is like existing without living & can put you in vulnerable situations.
Why do anything if you’re not going to give it your all?
I know it’s hard to go to work with the same motivation you had when you first started the job. Years of doing the same thing can kill one’s drive, but allowing yourself to go through the motions could result in missed opportunities or lead to termination. It could mean the next hire, who is hungrier and willing to work harder than you, could take your position or surpass you. It could mean your skills become obsolete, so when it’s time to make budget cuts, your name easily makes the list. The same applies to baseball. If a player doesn’t put in the work to polish his skills and utilize the opportunities presented to him, his performance suffers. Younger players lying in wait are then given the chances he missed out on.
Home life is hardly any different. It gradually becomes harder to go home to the same spouse, to the same kids with the same problems and express the same amount of love you did when you first met them. But neglect and indifference can spread like fire, causing irreversible damage. Your spouse may replace you. Your kids, having been scorned by you before, may no longer feel the need to seek your attention or approval. One day, you may look back, isolated and alone, regretting being a present absentee in their lives, wishing you had seized the opportunities to create new memories with them.
It’s important to value every repetition you get in life, otherwise, you will never reach your full potential. You’ll never master your craft or keep yourself open to new opportunities or fully experience giving and receiving love. Even if you’re just a burger flipper or paper pusher (nothing wrong with either occupation), work to be the best one there is. Becoming efficient enough will create free time to spend with your family, give you time to learn new skills, and allow you to take advantage when an opportunity presents itself.
On top of that, when adversity strikes like a ball changing course after hitting a rock in the infield, you’ll be confident enough to wear it on the chest without flinching (handle adversity without freaking out, non-baseball folk). Proficiency helps you respond to hard times instinctively.
In conclusion, don’t go through the motions in anything you do. Take nothing for granted. Live with intent and purpose, no matter how mundane your tasks become. Don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable by coasting through life.
Before You Go!
What does going through the motions mean to you? In what ways have you caught yourself going through the motions and how did you correct your behavior? Be sure to leave you thoughts in the Comments Section below!
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