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Do you want to be in the stands or on the field?

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Do you want to be in the stands or on the field?

Scott Miker

Most of us are critics.  We form opinions of professional athletes, politicians, company leaders, performers etc.  We stand back and judge even though our own talent is so far from having similar success. 

The reason is simple.  It is easy to sit in the stands, watch and form opinions.  Our opinions are often based on absolutes.  We can say that we would have done better or we could say, “If that was me I would have done something different.”

But that isn’t you.  That isn’t me.  That was a person who worked extremely hard and put him or her self on the stage.  They have the talent and the balls to go do it. 

This judging from afar seems harmless.  We all do it.  We ask each other what our opinion is of the latest news around someone famous.  Then we form our opinions and proclaim them as if they are hidden truth that only we can see.

As you start on your journey of improvement, you will likely come across this firsthand.  It could be that you simply want to lose weight and join a gym, only to be too intimidated every time you walk in and see everyone else in better shape than you.  It could be that you finally start to see some results and success and then feel attacked by outsiders for that success that you worked hard for.

That is one of the things that you have to learn to cope with.  You have to understand that being on the field/stage/arena etc. means that you are opening yourself up for critics. 

In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, the author talks about this from the standpoint of the professional who is putting him or her self out there.  He says, “He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”

If “getting stomped by the bulls” is something that scares you too much to even try, you will likely remain on the sidelines and continuing to be the critic instead of the performer. 

In order to be the performer, athlete, leader, etc. you have to have the belief that getting stomped on the field is better than sitting in the stands. 

This doesn’t make it easier and it doesn’t mean the attacks from critics hurt any less.  When someone attacks you and claims they know you more than you know you, it hurts.  But the only alternative is to quit and remain sidelined.  In order to be on the field, you have to understand that criticism is part of it.

This is why the systems and habits approach is such an internally focused process.  It is about creating new behaviors, new habits.  It isn’t about getting everyone around you involved right away. 

Some motivational experts claim that we need that social element in order to success.  I disagree.  In order to succeed we have to overcome that internal voice that mimics the critics so when the critics start with their verbal assaults we know how to overcome. 

The journey to improve should be free of hardship but it isn’t.  Just going after your goal puts you in the spotlight and open to criticism.  But if you can keep going and focusing on your own improvement and reasons for change you can become the professional that Pressfield talks about in The War of Art.