The summer was a hot, sweaty mess. Twice a week, the three boys with an occasional fourth or fifth, would show up, go inside the gym, lace up their wrestling shoes, and hit the mat. As the weeks passed, the wrestling became more and more intense. In time, the boys got so familiar with each other’s style, that the matches would end in stalemates with little to no action.
The drills before the matches were to give them options, to add to their arsenal of moves. But when the opening whistle blew, they almost always reverted into their comfort zones, forsaking the new and sticking with the old.
Is It Working?
“Is it working,” called out the dad sitting next to me. His son got into a bad position but would not let it go. Was he weighing the risk versus the reward of his current position? Or was he so committed to that pursuing other options was unfathomable? As an observer, it was easy for the dad to see the problem. But for the exhausted wrestler struggling in the heat of the moment, the obvious wasn’t so clear. Of course it wasn’t working, but when the boy was locked in, it felt easier for him to stay the course.
Discontent is the first necessity of progress.Thomas Edison
The question of “Is it working?” is permanently engrained in my mind. I heard it from the dad a hundred times, and I said it myself equally as much. And every time we said it, we discussed it as the amateur analysts that we were. Why were our sons not changing? Why were they stuck in their ways?
Donut was the assigned safe word. When it was called out by the coach or by one of the parents, the wrestler in the bad position was supposed to bail out of it. It didn’t always work, but it made for an easy verbal cue for whatever the wrestler was doing that was not working.
Donut became the second most prevalent shout in the gym. Easy for the parents to say, but not so much for the wrestlers trying to bail. They may have heard it in the background, but some positions were seemingly inescapable. Knowing to bail out and the ability to do so were just too far apart.
Too many times we get locked into what we are doing even if it is not working. The current process is familiar, maybe even easier, and change is hard. But if it is not working, why do we continue to do it? Is the comfort of routine greater than the discomfort of a lack of progress?
How do we get out of this rut? First, we must ask ourselves if it is working. Often, this requires us to pause the activity and take a step to observe. If we are still too close to the problem, then we should seek the guidance of a trusted advisor. Let them observe and counsel accordingly. Maybe their insight can provide the change we seek. Next, we can’t be afraid to call “donut” on our current situation. I’m not saying we should give up. But if it is time to bail on one tactic and try a different approach, then that is what we should do. The end goal doesn’t have to change, but maybe the path to getting there does. Better to pivot, than to remain stagnant.