Game Plan For All Seasons
Bill Cottringer

Psychology has one principle that can be applied to any interpersonal interaction to get the best results. This is the very fundamental principle of human behavior which recognizes that both our commonalities and our differences have to be understood and considered in our efforts to get the best results in what we are trying to do.

In sport psychology I have used this principle to help coaches motivate their athletes better and generally deal with them more effectively to get better performance. The norm here is to expediently treat the team equally as a whole rather than trying to find time to treat approach each athlete as a unique individual. The same is true in teaching students or consulting with businesses.

Yes, it is very useful to know that anyone can be motivated by rewards, but not all in the same way and even each individual may require different motivators at different times and under different circumstances. It is much smarter to take the time to understand your audience better to know things like how people process information differently; who needs to be jacked up in motivation or calmed down; which people do better by being over or under-confident or under or over prepared; and which prefer to be rewarded publically vs privately, all for their best performance.

This important psychological principle is also applicable to one of the main challenges in life—to find out what our purpose is. We are all on a common quest, in which we try to discover and live out in our own unique way (usually by trial and error or accident)—our very own life ‘made-for-movie’ story. Some realize this is what is actually going on and some don’t have a clue about their personal story unfolding right under their noses (the obtuse takes a while to see while the obvious even longer!).

Our common quest has both a global and local perspective—(a) Finding our general purpose in life and living it, which is generally to make a contribution in helping others get to the finish line with fun, peace, sense of meaning, achievement, and contentment, by striving to become fully evolved in our awareness and morality into our best selves, and (b) Discovering more about this at the local level—What unique skill and ability do we have to customize our general purpose, with our signature on it. Our general happiness is dependent upon having a sense of making progress at finding and living our particular purpose.

I think Rick Warren nailed it earlier in his Purpose Driven Life, with his useful instructions on finding our unique purpose within this common one:

• What am I driven to do and just can’t keep myself from doing?
• What do I have the most fun doing?
• What am I best at doing?
• What do others tell me I am best at?
• What is most difficult and unpleasant for me to do, but I know I should be doing it and it really needs somebody to do it?

This all fits under my general understanding of human behavior—that we all have many things in common (common purpose and motivation for self-actualization), and yet retain individual differences too (unique skills and abilities to carry out this common purpose with our own brand of motivation, in our own way, means and time frame). Both are essential to understand.

In my work with professional athletes and their coachs, the first thing I had to “teach” them was that there are several common ways to motivate the person for best performance (satisfying general needs), but this had to be done in unique ways personally desired by each individual, in order to stick like duct tape. Coaches often fall into the trap of treating the “team” as a whole (because it is easier and quicker), rather than take the time and make the effort to get to know each individual on a personal level. That is why I always provided the coaches with individual profiles of the players from psychological testing.

My own discovery of our common purpose here has been a long journey, but finding my own unique personal mission, has taken even longer. Maybe like your skin, it is so much a part of you, that it is difficult to “see.” At any rate, I finally stumbled upon my my personal purpose—It is not to teach people new things they don’t know, but rather to remind them of what they already know and just forgot because of the words we have all learned to use to hide the real truth from ourselves and others.

The irony of this is that the only way to remember what we need to know in order to be genuinely happy and successful, is to learn to unforget what got in the way by the same way we forgot what we knew at birth—with words through language development. What we all nned to remember is the common sense we were born with. Understanding why this is so is a nonsensical quest. Just understanding how it develops and how to undo it, is enough to keep you busy the rest of your life, which becomes more full with meaning, success and contentment.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness (Covenant Books, Inc.) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or