Patience and Faith Hold It All Together
What does the phrase "If it was easy, everyone would do it" mean to you? To me, it brings good news that you and I can earn a competitive advantage by doing things that most other people will not do. It also reminds us that the road to any worthwhile goal is going to be inherently challenging, even difficult (though different is probably a better word to use). So, how can we navigate these challenges? By giving our best effort one step at a time, repeating what's working and changing what doesn't work. This system is guaranteed to work...eventually. But alas, it's the word "eventually" that's the biggest problem for so many people, myself included. We figure, "I worked hard. Now show me the results." Unfortunately, life and performance in sports are not that simple. It takes an undefined amount of time for the formula of "try and try again" to bear fruit.
"Just above competitive greatness I have placed patience and faith, two essential qualities that are like mortar keeping the individual blocks firmly in place. Patience and faith are really present throughout the Pyramid, holding everything together." (John Wooden, p. 191, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.)
One goal of mental skills training is to accelerate the process of approaching potential, but even fabulous mental skills don't alleviate the need for time. Time, in turn, necessitates patience and faith, or the positive attitude that led to "winning" the mental side of the game in the first place will be lost. As John Wooden described in his Pyramid of Success, the mortar that holds it all together is made of patience and faith.
Patience and faith are also critical at the level of achieving a singular best effort performance. All athletes make the mistake at some point of trying too hard. In their attempt to make good things happen, they press. Rather than trying to "make it happen," elite performers learn to consistently "let it happen." What's the difference between these two? Patience and faith...that good behaviors will eventually and inevitably be rewarded! This certainly may not occur right away. It may not even happen in the format anticipated. But it will happen. On a single play, patience and faith are manifested by good rhythm rather than rushing, aggression that is balanced rather than out-of-control, and persistence with the belief that all that is needed now is my best effort, one step at a time. What comes after that will be fine, whether it is the desired outcome or not.
Here are a couple of mantras we can use to remind outselves of this stuff: BE=AGE ("My best is always good enough!") and "Trust my routine." After all, I crafted my pre-performance routine to do everything I know to do to get into the right place at the right time. What more can a person do? With patience and faith, the athlete is smooth and can make a great performance appear easy. Without it, the same situation leads to a poor performance that looks or feels very difficult.
What strategies do you use to cope with the pressures of competition? Please leave ideas in the comments below Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success.