Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, baseball fans: “I’m in the best shape of my life.” It’s that wonderful time of year when major leaguers return from their winter hiatus to spring training and begin making such claims to all who will listen. Is it true? It doesn’t matter! What matters is that hope springs eternal and the more fuel they can add to the hope fire the better. But no, most of the time it’s not true.
People are bad self-evaluators. This is compounded by the confidence we place in our self-evaluations. When a ballplayer says he is “in the best shape of his life” he is expressing more about his readiness for a new season and excitement to get back on the field than any measurable gain in fitness or skill. NBC Sports’ baseball site, Hardball Talk, has recorded every instance they could find of players making this claim for a few years running, and what it shows is … nothing. They mean nothing toward the outcome of the season. They stem from the human propensity to evaluate ourselves based on emotion rather than reality.
We mislead ourselves all the time, and in so doing mislead others. When a baseball player does it, it’s mostly harmless. Maybe a few guys playing fantasy baseball will get frustrated when one of their players doesn’t live up to his self-professed hype, but that’s about it. But in other areas of life, the circumstances can be of greater significance: a husband swears he’ll never look at porn again after a convicting sermon, an employee promises never to be late to work again after a warning, a teen recommits his life to Christ at summer camp and promises to throw away his secular music, tell his whole family about Jesus, and never miss a day of Bible reading.
Can they do it? Maybe, but probably not. Their feelings and passions drive them to over-promise, which will almost inevitably be followed by under-delivery. We’ve all done it, and we know the cycle of guilt, recommitment, promises, effort, failure, and guilt once again. Sometimes we just give up altogether. How do we break this cycle?
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