Baseball and Spitting (Achievement Nudge about Achieving Better Behavior)

looking over baseball field to stands with orange sunset - featured image for better behavior blog by truby achievements

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Bill Truby

You’re going to remember this Nudge the next time you spit while brushing your teeth.

Achieve Better Behavior by Meeting Your Needs Differently

To watch a baseball game is to watch players spit…and they spit a lot! Zoom in on the pitcher – spit. A close look at the player in center field – spit. The camera pans the dugout – spit, spit, spit!

Off the field, a player can be a sophisticated dresser, one who sits proudly next to you at an awards banquet, worships beside you in church, and keeps his food in his mouth at a nice restaurant. But get him on the baseball diamond, and you will inevitably see him spit. Swing the bat – spit. Look up at the scoreboard – spit. Lead off of the base – spit.

You don’t see golfers spit. You don’t see Olympic athletes spit. You don’t see politicians spit (though you may see a few people in the audience do so). Why so much spitting in baseball? The answer: This disgusting habit was behavior associated with fulfilling a need, and that behavior lives on today.

Back in the 1800s, in addition to stimulating their saliva on the dusty fields and to diminish boredom from the slow game, players used the spittle from chewing tobacco to moisten their gloves. And when you chew tobacco, you’ve got to spit. Spitting became an iconic behavior associated with baseball, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Though some still use chewing tobacco, many players now use bubble gum or sunflower seeds to relieve their boredom…AND it gives them something to spit, a reason to spit.

Here’s the psychology behind this behavior. It’s a truth that explains why we, too, repeat the same “disgusting” behavior over and over again: “Anything negative we hold on to, is serving us in some positive way.”

Procrastination, a bad habit, your being late all the time – all serve you in some positive way. At some point in your past, you learned to fulfill a need, and the behavior, even if it was negative behavior, stuck. Your procrastination may have given you attention. Your bad habit may have become your identity. Being late may have given you power. Your conscious mind can be repulsed by your behavior, but your subconscious mind learned that certain behavior, although negative, can positively fulfill a certain need.

A book could be written on this topic, but I’ll focus this Nudge on one logical, simple fact: If you learned to satisfy a need with negative behavior, learning to satisfy it with positive behavior makes the negative behavior vanish. I’ve helped people do this hundreds of times. If procrastination serves you by giving you attention, and you choose to get attention by better performance instead, your subconscious mind doesn’t need to use procrastination anymore.

You see, the subconscious mind makes no judgment. It just wants to satisfy a need. If it learned that stealing an apple satisfies hunger, it perpetuates that behavior. If you gain the ability and learn to buy the apple instead, the need to steal it goes away. All the subconscious wants is to fulfill a need, and it will perpetuate any behavior that will accomplish that goal. Your repetitive, negative behavior can be explained as simply as the reason spitting started and stayed.

So, the next time you catch yourself with behavior you don’t like, stop and ask, “How is this behavior serving me?” Don’t lie or make excuses. Without honesty you will never learn…or change. Find the need, fulfill it in a more positive way. That’s the best chance of having the negative behavior go away.

Now, returning our attention to baseball, I guess we can be thankful that the early baseball players didn’t use other disgusting bodily functions to relieve boredom and moisten their gloves. I can think of things that are a LOT more disgusting. So, in the light of THAT conclusion….Yankees, spit on!

Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements