My son Dylan—who just turned five last week!—had an 8:00 am baseball game on Saturday. Never mind that I had just gotten home at midnight from a week of being in NYC, and that to arrive properly prepared for an 8:00 am game the alarm has to go off way too early. THAT is not the point, for today. But rather:
At 8:00 am this past Saturday the temperature hovered at around 45 degrees, and the winds were gusting mightily.
Now, this is an instructional league for 4–6 year olds, so the way the games work is that they play two complete “innings,” with each team getting the chance to bat and to play outfield, twice. The coaches throw the pitches, and the kids get three chances to hit the ball on their own, and if they can’t then they get the chance to hit it off the tee. Kids just make their way one by one around the bases, until the very last batter in the line-up, and then whoever is left on the bases runs all the way home. The games last an hour, and it’s a perfect loose structure for teaching the young ones how to hold a bat, hit the ball, field the ball, and generally feel what it’s like to round the bases.
Except for on a 45 degree Saturday morning with ferocious winds howling.
One boy walked up to the bat refusing to take his hands out of this pockets, and when he finally did he just cried his way through batting.
Parents on the sidelines were huddled under blankets and winter coats (or wishing they had them).
At one point the wind blew Dylan’s hat right off his head.
After the game, Dylan cried for about 45 minutes straight because he was so frozen.
I am sure that all of us, coaches included, had this thought at some point during the midst of the game: Why are we doing this?
Why are we doing this?
It’s freezing. Every.Single.Person. is miserable. No one is having fun, and no one is learning a thing. Why are we doing this? Because the league tells us that we are supposed to have games on Saturday mornings? Because that’s what the schedule says? Because we’re supposed to? Because we’re following the “rules” and that’s just what you do?
What would have happened if either one of the coaches had just called the game off? Would those 4–6 year old boys and girls suddenly be way off track in the advancement of their baseball skills? I don’t think so. What would have happened if I kept Dylan home because I made my own decision that it was too cold for him to play? Would he have “missed out”? No way.
So why are we doing this?
How often does this happen to us? We do something, or keep doing something, because we’re “supposed” to… because that is the way “it’s done”, long past the point where anyone is enjoying it or anything productive is coming out of it? We just go through motions without thinking about the “why.” This can happen in any situation, if we’re not careful. Maybe a team is starting to perform poorly at work because the systems that used to work have become archaic to the current needs of the team. Maybe a youth program starts seeing low turnout because the activities that engaged last year’s students just don’t speak to this year’s. Maybe a job that used to be fulfilling is now become just about “clocking in.”
Sitting there Saturday was an intense reminder of this for me, a reminder to spend some time with a “Why am I doing this?” checklist of life.
Dr. Seuss was no dummy when he said “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
So, where can you ask yourself: “Why are we doing this?” today?
"Why Are We Doing This?", The Leadership Program, 2016