At the end of a hard practice or tough competition,...
Great athletes know that achieving their goals and desires requires work and effort. Many elements contribute to a solid athletic performance – athletes must be strong and fit for their task; they have to be technically sound at each phase of their performance; they have to maintain proper form; their mind has to be in tune, their bodies relaxed, and they dare not forget to breath. These things don’t happen on their own, they are developed over time and optimized through practice and training effectively. Practice is all about committing the ideal execution to muscle memory. The expectation is that everything (at least most) will fall into place when the pressure is on and it’s time to compete.
I’ll always remember my last ever decent 400-meter dash. Not only because it was my fastest time, but after years of training and trying to implement what my coach was teaching me, the elements came together. I’d finally sprinted 400-meters. I was in incredible pain; I didn’t know it then, but I was at the beginning of the end of my career. But I will always remember that race as the day it all fell into place.
Excelling at a sport does not begin when the game starts; by then it’s too late. It begins in the months of conditioning and continues well into the off season. Game day is merely the showcase of what the athletes have been working on (or not working on) behind closed practice doors. When the time comes to perform, the athlete who is ready has less to think about. His only thoughts are about execution. The athlete who is unprepared– who wasted all of that valuable practice time, will have his mind preoccupied with what he lacks. By not putting in the work beforehand, he creates another obstacle during game time. Sure, he could still perform well without preparation, but he does so at his own risk.
We’ll face many hurdles between us and the excellence we hope to achieve in life Beyond Athletics. There will be new skills or software to learn, presentations to deliver, even difficult conversations to have. All require the effort of practice rather than chance to master.
As an athlete, I knew it required regular practice and effort to accomplish my goal of being good at my sport. And I worked hard at practice even if unwillingly at times, because I knew it was that important to becoming the athlete I envisioned I could be. But, somewhere along the line a new way of thinking began to matriculate. Hard work became taboo. Living my best life meant making the most money possible while doing the least amount of work. I fantasized that I just had to show up and execute to be great at something. But life is not magic; being great doesn’t “just happen” nor does it happen overnight, and it doesn’t become reality unless I make it so by practicing time and time again until my body, voice, hands and legs have been trained to execute the desired response instinctually. That’s the art of preparation.
The spiritual journey to live life with God is a practice. Becoming the people that we desire to be requires intentional effort and practice. It doesn’t just happen. Romans 7:15-20 is a great example to me of just how real the struggle is. I believe that life is a beautiful and sometimes awkward dance between our faith and our works – there’s a coupling of the two. Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The earnest seeking of the invisible God is an action that we must take, same as believing in Him is something we must do. It doesn’t just happen; it’s a life of practicing and trying and failing and trying again.
What do you what the world to see through you and your work? Perhaps you desire to be great at something in life beyond athletics. If your performance/outputs don’t match the level of excellence that you envision it could be, practice may be required. Make the commitment to yourself to make your vision a reality by preparing yourself. Taking the time to rehearse or practice liberates you and increases the chance of you getting the results (at least out of yourself) that you want. You cannot always guarantee the response of your audience, but you will at least be able to execute at the level you desire to. The next time you find yourself struggling to learn or execute a new skill well, don’t be discouraged. Remember Practice is Required…Obviously.
- What is one skill that you need to develop to be great at your work beyond athletics?
- Where can you schedule the time to put in some practice to improve that skill?
- What are some personality, mind-sets or character developments beyond work or career that you would like to start putting into practice?