Training for Patience

It’s important to remember that success isn’t going always going to happen overnight. Whether it’s waiting out a performance slump, looking to break into a starting line-up, or finally overcoming a nagging injury, patience isn’t just a virtue – it’s a necessity. Athletes and coaches can be notoriously impatient. I once reminded a coach that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He told his assistant coach standing next to him that it was strictly because he wasn’t the foreman. I’d be the first to tell you – I’m not very patient. However, I’m a firm believer that good things can and will happen if one is patient and persistent.

Sport is full of examples of patience and persistence paying real dividends for athletes and teams.   Similar to any skill – patience takes time and well – patience – to perfect. Here are some necessary components of patience-training:

Patience starts with developing realistic expectations. Often, previous experience with instant or seemingly “overnight” success can breed impatience – especially when confronted with a task or problem that will take time to fulfill or overcome. Most of the time we aren’t going to experience success immediately – but we can’t get discouraged and give up on our efforts. Success is often a function of time and effort. Setting realistic goals for improvement and/or success is a necessity.

Recognizing setbacks as temporary is another important component of patience. Growth and development rarely occur in a smooth, upward trajectory. We things go awry, you have to step back, evaluate the situation, make the necessary adjustments and continue on. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb after thousands of unsuccessful experiments. Yet, he never viewed his failures as a waste of time – “I realized after each attempt I was successful in proving that you couldn’t make a light bulb in that manner.” Setbacks aren’t just temporary – they may even be necessary feedback in order for us to reach our potential.

Choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Setbacks make it easy give into bitterness: “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “I don’t deserve this!” Ultimately, this outlook – one that focuses on outcomes rather than process – doesn’t move us any closer to success. A more effective outlook would reflect patience in the process. It’s asking at the start of each training session: “What will I do today to get a little bit closer to where I want to be?”

Finally, remember that patience is rooted in the belief you can overcome. This kind of belief doesn’t guarantee success but it does create an environment that fosters success. It’s the opposite of doubt, worry, and fear. It predisposes the athlete to perform well and then allows talent to take over. As my graduate advisor loved to say, “Trust is a mindset. It’s not dependent on circumstances or situations. It’s really the will to choose.”

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