Saturday, January 24, 2015

Motivating a Team of One

It feels awful to let your team down, just ask Green Bay Packer Brandon Bostick, after his team's recent NFL playoff game. Likely though he has the advantage of leaning on his teammates for support and motivation he'll need to recover from this dramatic loss.

How to start a team of one

One unfulfilled lifetime goal and solo initiative of mine has been to commit to a 3-4 times a week routine of physical exercise and activity. Over the years I've taken up jogging, joined health clubs, tried cross country skiing, biking, swimming, and other sports only to be knocked off course eventually by the excuse of distraction, interruption or some other life circumstance. And time and again there I am, staring at the person in the mirror knowing there's no one else in the room other than the reflection to blame for the breakdown -- the feeling can be overwhelming.

When there's no friendly teammates on hand to support you -- no question about it, it is hard to go it alone, to pick up and carry on. Recently though, for me, there's been an exception.

The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.--George Bernard Shaw

Picture of Jack Russell terrier jumping obstacle with trainerFor two years now I've had consistent success in living up to my exercise goals.  The same set of excuses are still present, but my personal motivation and commitment are stronger. What's changed? Psychologically speaking, I've become a team of one+ (one plus).

That's right, no less than three times a week there's me and my dog, Fergus, running, training or participating in dog agility trials. Wait a minute, you say, that's a team of two. Not exactly.

Never once has my dog looked at me and said, "you know I just don't feel motivated today."

The reality is, and it's the most wonderful thing about dogs, they give 100% from the time they're born till the day they keel over. And in so many ways they are the perfect teammate -- they don't complain, rebel, or back-stab. So we work and compete as a team, and I do my best to keep up to the expectations of my four-legged teammate. But in the final analysis, I am a team of one.  I made the commitment, keep the practice schedule, drive to the competitions, and do everything I can to help us win.  And that's what's different.

It's just a point of view -- I don't want to disappoint my dog. Even though it's literally impossible to disappoint him -- he has no expectations. He's just as happy playing tug of war, taking a walk or chewing the fuzz off a tennis ball (the latter typically being about 180 seconds of entertainment).

Not letting down my friend is what always favorably tips the scales in the daily motivational debates in my head -- but it works.  Even Capt. Pickney  (see my Jan 2nd blog --Finding the Courage to Make Change) who has to face high seas after he leaves the dock, could have stopped half-way and turned back, but for his friends.  You see he had regular radio calls with school children during his journey -- he was a team of one who couldn't disappoint his friends.  
So the lesson learned for success is don't go it alone.  Build a team of one+, check in with a friend, routinely consult a mentor, educate an apprentice, or last but not least get a dog. 

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Positive success stories are welcome.