Why I Hate "Hacks"

Somehow in our society, it became trendy to "hack" nearly everything, including our approach to life and our mental training. A quick Google search brings up plenty of searches about 100s (or 1000s) of "hacks" that people claim will make your life better.

I can't help but sigh loudly when I encounter these articles. Sure there may be some cool tips to streamline your life. Yet, I hate these claims and think they're missing the point. Here's why.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

People generally use the word "hack" in a positive manner suggesting it's a streamlined way to accomplish something good. However, the word hack actually means "to cut or sever with repeated irregular or unskillful blows." WHAT?! So why in the world are hacks a good thing and something to which we should aspire? What kind of message are we sending to people if we encourage them to be unskillful through life?


I've clicked on these hacking articles numerous times and almost always find myself feeling frustrated or unfulfilled. Even if there are some good tips, these articles give you the impression that once you try these tricks, you should now have a good life or mindset. Done. Over. Finished. But it doesn't work like that!

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for being efficient and working smart. I get excited when I can figure out was to make my life flow more smoothly. Maybe that's why I like to organize things! Yet, I'm quite concerned about this impression that we should cut corners and do things easily (which is different than efficiently).

I was raised in a family where working hard was simply part of what was done. Cutting corners was NOT okay. Trust me, I tried. One time I didn't want to mow the lawn, so I mowed it in circles (instead of the requested straight line). Needless to say, I had to do it over...so it took me longer than it would have anyway! I also tried this with dusting, but my mom ALWAYS caught on! 

Think about this concept more broadly. Do you want a doctor, lawyer, or airline pilot who cut corners and hacked their way through school? Do you want your significant other or friends to hack their way through their relationship with you? I surely don't! I want people in my life to do things right and to do them well. So why is hacking something to achieve in sports, in your own life, or in your mental training? IT ISN'T. 

Despite what some may want you to believe, there's no magic to mental training or psychology. You either do the work or you don't. You may fall upon positive results when you don't do the work, but they're not going to stick. A broken clock is still right twice a day. But wouldn't you rather your clock be right 24 hours a day? DO THE WORK and it will be. Will you notice immediate results? Maybe. Will you notice results long-term? Yes and they will stick with you.

Learn to enjoy the process not the outcome.

One of the things we cheat ourselves out of while trying to hack our way through life is the genuine enjoyment of a job well done. Thanks to my parents, I have an incredibly difficult time not doing things well. (That's a GENUINE thanks, BTW, not sarcasm. Promise!) Because of that, I've learned to enjoy working hard and persisting in pursuit of goals, no matter the outcome. 

I'm probably one of the few people who enjoys training for races. Don't get me wrong, there's my own fair share of dread and workout avoidance. Yet, there's something awesome about hitting threshold numbers on the bike or paces on a run or swim that really puts a spring in my step. Is it frustrating when I don't hit the numbers? OF COURSE. But there's also something rewarding about persisting when the workout was a total suckfest.

We only have so much control over the outcome and whether or not we reach our goals. Sometimes we lose, not because we didn't play or race well but because our competition was just a little better than us. If we "hack" our way through training, that loss is going to hit us harder than if we learn to relish in the hard work. Because not only did we lose the competition but we also lost the enjoyment and fulfillment of working hard. 

That, my friends, is THE GRIND. That day in, day out pursuit of a job well done. Pursuing goals even when, or especially when, it's hard. Watch this video and then ask yourself if you still want to "hack" your way through life.

Well, now that I think about it, not EVERYTHING leads to pure enjoyment when I work hard. I still hate mowing the lawn. I guess that's why my husband does it, so he can enjoy the hard work :) That or he doesn't want me to mow circles in an attempt to amuse myself...

Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.


Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.