~Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.~
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

There are so many qualities that can be valuable to being a successful athlete. Some of the basics include commitment, dedication, perseverance and resiliency; none of which should be underestimated. But one quality that I feel is critical to long term success, both as an athlete and simply in life to achieve dreams and goals, is that of patience. I have seen the value of this attribute on both sides of the equation; both personally as an athlete, but also from the outside looking in as a coach. Life is constantly throwing us curveballs and at  some point, the most perfectly laid plans go awry. To be able to adapt to adversity and react appropriately takes patience and trust in the process. On that note, I’d like to dive into a few examples of how aiming to perfect the ‘art of patience’ will help in achieving long term success as an athlete.

1) The patient athlete views setbacks as opportunity. Setbacks are part of the process. While we can control our attitudes and reactions, there are many things in life and sport that are out of our control. These obstacles can include injury, life stresses or poor performances, among others. When these occur, the patient athlete will look at the situation and ask ‘how can I make this a positive’. Rather than giving in to the instinct to want to quit, realize and accept this is part of the process and it can be a positive if you take the right attitude. Injured? Take the time away from the structure to reset and focus on a weakness. Life stress? Acknowledge that there is more to life than sport, and put your energy where it needs to go. Poor performance? Learn from it. Discover the art of turning a negative into a positive, and you will find unexpected misfortunes only arm you with more strength in the long run.

2) The patient athlete appreciates The Process. The old adage “the journey is the reward”? It’s actually fairly profound. If you truly enjoy what you are doing, the urge for needing it now subsides. You can embrace the day to day, the good with the bad; you can see the long-term vision and understand the importance of hard work. How many times have you seen some raw talent, over night success kick your ass? It’s really annoying, isn’t it?! I’ve learned over time, these phenoms rarely withstand adversity and experience a career of longevity. Let go of needing it ‘now’ and embrace the process. Realize the day to day is what allows you to learn about yourself, and gives you the confidence and knowledge to taste success. When you can understand that anything worth while take time and commitment, you can also embrace the journey you are on.

3) The patient athlete is willing to listen and learn. I’ve long said some people are more coachable than others, and this does not at all need to apply simply to athletics. I also believe that this can be a learned skill. With maturity comes the ability to know what you do, and know what you do not. While it is great to ask questions, it is critical, if you aspire to improve yourself, to learn the skill of listening. Be open minded. Accept constructive criticism. Respect those around you; especially those you view as mentors. When you can do these things, you can reflect, be introspective and you open the door to growth as a person. And I stress again; we all have ways we can improve ourselves, constantly. If you feel you could be better at listening, simply practice it more regularly. You’re never to old to change.

4) The patient athlete values small victories. Being a high achiever can be a redeeming quality. But if it is ‘never good enough’ and you tend to see the negative and be overly critical, it will be a long, arduous and at times unrewarding journey. Celebrate the good. This may be a breakthrough session, a moment with a friend or coach whereby something clicks or a race that feels easy and you knock out a PR unexpectedly. Enjoy it! When someone pays you a compliment, graciously appreciate it. On the flip side, share in the joy when a friend or colleague achieves a victory. The journey matters, and while we are often our own biggest critic, it makes the process a lot more positive when you can truly enjoy it, especially the little achievements along the way.

5) The patient athlete manages expectations. This athlete understands where they are in their development, and they understand what their outcome goals and potential looks like relative to this. Part of managing expectations is being honest with oneself. What are your goals in sport? What drives you to wake up each day and get out the door? Where do you want to be in the next year, or three? To manage expectations, you must be true to yourself, set process oriented goals and never fail to see the bigger picture. A good coach can play a key role in this. By being transparent and at times vulnerable with a coach or mentor, it will allow you to understand what is realistic and create a plan to work towards your goals. This athlete understands the importance of open communication. While I always like to encourage an athlete to aim high, dream big; it is still critical to know where you are, see where you want to go and understand the path it will take to get there. The athlete who manages their expectations understands there will be bumps in the road, but doesn’t falter from the path. They will not let a huge victory define them any more than they will great disappointment.

So as you put a wrap on your 2018 season and look towards the future, take a few moments in the midst of the meditation of a training session, or when you sneak some quiet time over coming weeks to ask yourself if you feel you are being patient in your journey. And if the answer is that you can do better or are falling short on this, no worries; that is what tomorrow is for.