If you spend more time daydreaming than working on a plan for improvement, there is probably something you are avoiding.
For the last six years of a 26-year career, Coach Myer was not getting through to his players. The nail in his coaching coffin came after five consecutive days of having his players walk out on him in the middle of practice. The legendary coach of the Buccaneers was asked to resign.
Prior to his resignation, at least 20 players had filed formal complaints about his disrespectful and embarrassing tactics towards them. In one of the more public displays of player-coach friction, Javon Bradley, the leading scorer and rebounder of the Bucs, walked out during the middle of a game after Coach referred to him as a “sissy shrinking violet” because of a defensive lapse that gave the other team the lead during a game.
Coach Myer, through the litany of complaints and “bellyaching” from his players, cited a lazy and entitled culture that was not interested in doing anything “that they did not want to do.”
John Meadow, formerly Myer’s Assistant Coach and now the Head Coach made a rather interesting observation about a habit that Coach had on the bus ride to and from games. Amidst the formal complaints, the obvious tension in the locker rooms and on the practice court, Coach Myer would look out the window and say or do nothing else. To hear John describe it, Coach would ignore questions from the players until the players simply stopped asking him. On two occasions, staff from the Athletic Department called Coach to talk about logistical changes for the game they were headed to but John ended up having to take the phone from his hands and answer the call because Coach was as in a pure daze.
But, why? What was going on in that head of his that suddenly drowned out everything that was going on around him? Why did this daze occur on the bus but not in the locker rooms or on the court?
The answer likely resides with his former wife, Mayleen. One evening she began to get worried because Coach was supposed to be home by 9:00 after a game and it was already 9:45. She eventually called his cell phone from their kitchen. Surprisingly enough, she could hear his phone ring, and she traced the sound to their garage, which was connected to their kitchen. There Coach sat, in his car and looking out the window. When she asked him what he was doing, he began making comments about all that he had seen on his way home before eventually breaking into a tirade about the “idiocy” of his players.
Mayleen and Coach ended up talking for a couple hours and a lot came out of this discussion. The reader’s digest version is that it was easier for Coach to look out the window than to look in the mirror. In this, he knew that the only constant in the revolving door of players, negativity, complaints and strain was him. This is not to say that he saw himself as the issue but rather than seek to understand, rather than truly look within, he chose to put his head in the proverbial sand.
Could it be that Coach was not willing to adopt his leadership and coaching style based on differences in what motivates people as generations changed? Could it be that Coach had lashed out and immediately reflected on the mistake, but did not garner the courage to apologize nor the strength and fortitude to find a different coping mechanism—to channel his negative energy to positive, long-term solutions? A mere visit in front of the mirror could have been the second serving of reflection he needed to get there.
Coach is not alone in this habit. It is easier for a lot of us to look out the window than to look in the mirror. We often look out the window so that we can appreciate the passing cactus, the new Corvette or a building that is architecturally stunning. These things can make it easy for us to avoid self-awareness and self-management.
Shifting to the other side of this discussion, I had a client once tell me that her husband’s constant abuse was a painful experience that was briefly forgotten during her 90-minute drive home from work every day. This client, we’ll call her Lauren, was not stubbornly avoiding responsibility since, as any fool knows, no one is responsible for being abused. But, Lauren was avoiding the dreadful thoughts of her abuse and abuser, by taking in everything around her except the reality that said abuse would not change, so long as she looked out the window instead of opening the door–and walking out of it.
Whether we are talking about Coach or Lauren, looking out the window instead of looking in the mirror is an avoidance technique. When we look out the window or daydream for that matter, chances are we will like what we see. Mirrors, on the other hand, can show us someone that we are not very proud of or happy with, for whatever reason. And, while looking out the window enables us to see pretty things that draw us away from sadness and towards hope and possibility, hope is not a plan, and the person in the mirror needs a plan if they’re ever going to stop window gazing.