One of my least favorite questions to be asked is one that I also frequently get as a teacher, coach, and parent.
What do I need to do?
Except it usually sounds more like: Uunnggghhh, what do I do?!?!?
Please don’t get me wrong, I love helping other people. It’s at the core of our lives as a physical therapist, teacher, coaches, and, of course, parents. Helping and serving others is the point of this podcast and the foundation of Real Life Runners.
The issue is “What do I do?” is not actually asking for help. Below are my three issues with the statement and how to better frame the question if you find yourself wanting to scream “What do I need to do?”
First, let’s start with the question as a complaint that you probably already know the answer to. In very frustrating situations such as a running plateau, a healthy eating hiccup, or any challenge with your kids, this question may hit your mind. You know the answer, and it’s usually the least exciting. There is no shortcut to the success of long term health, fitness, and balanced relationships within a family. All of these successes come through continuous, even monotonous, daily effort.
Second, the question is incomplete. At its core, this question is simply a cry for help. To actually be useful, the full question needs to be refined. What do I need to do to accomplish a specific goal. As usual, the more specific the question, the clearer the path will become.
Third, the question puts the control and responsibility onto another person. While this may seem comforting at first, long term success comes when we take the responsibility. This topic is tricky, because I do think it is helpful to seek the advice of a trusted advisor or an expert who can provide guidance. However, most people do not actually enjoy following advice and will even start to rebel against it. Any advice or plan will feel too restrictive and challenging when there is no personal connection. When you find an identity that leads to your goal, then coaching wisdom is welcome. The best coaching relationships are actual relationships, not just blind trust.
Finally, while this question drives me nuts, it is a starting point. When the exasperated person calls out for help, the need a trusted advisor or friend to help them see what the cannot. An outside resource can set goals and dreams that you may have never considered. A coach should not just be a cheerleader proclaiming that anything is possible if you try, but an honest evaluator that can unlock you mind to new horizons. Once they show the possible, and you set your identity towards a clear goal, the question changes. You no longer complain “what do I need to do?” but wonder, “what else can I accomplish?”
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