- continue firmly in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.
What sets elite athletes apart from everyone else? It’s not talent; many talented people have faded into oblivion. It’s not strength; strength alone isn’t enough. It’s not skill; skill may turn heads, but won’t stand on it’s own.
The one thing that sets the elite apart is persistence.
Everyone loves the idea of the “overnight success.” The newbie that walks on the scene and makes a splash. It’s what Hollywood movies are made of. But the truth of the matter is that there is no such thing. That rookie that made the papers has been working her tail off in anonymity for years. She has won some and lost some. She has endured early mornings and late nights, sore muscles and injuries, and moments of doubt, where she almost didn’t go on. There have been setbacks too, maybe even neigh sayers.
Sound familiar? Maybe not the elite athlete part, but we can all relate to the process. We can all look at our journey and see the struggles and hard times we have walked through in various aspects of our life.
Calvin Coolidge is famously quoted saying, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
So what does it take to persist?
Persistence requires purpose. We must be 100% convinced that the journey through will be worth it. When the road is smooth, we glide along without any resistance. When the going gets tough, we often reconsider if we are on the right road. We think that maybe we missed a turn somewhere behind us and perhaps we should flip a u-turn and go back to find it. To persevere on the same route despite bumps and detours, we have to recognize the meaning in the journey and the destination where we are headed.
Persistence requires discipline. Let’s face it. There are days when we want to sleep in, to eat dessert for dinner and to play hooky. Every once in a while, it’s good to give ourselves the space to breathe. But if we are truant too many times, we will find ourselves off the road entirely and headed nowhere. The discipline to be consistent in our pursuit of a goal loses it’s luster at 6am when the alarm reminds us of our commitment, but the bed is warm and inviting. Creating habits help to reinforce the discipline that we need. For example, if I have decided to run a 5k, I need to stick to my running plan. I also need to make sure that I hydrate and fuel my body properly. This might mean that I start writing out a grocery list of healthy things I want to eat while training. Whatever my goal, creating habits that keep me disciplined will help me accomplish it.
Persistence requires support. No man is an island. We all need a support system. Sometimes that comes in the form of family or friends. Sometimes it comes in the form of teammates or people we meet along the way. We need to be willing to reach out for help when we need it. If you broke your arm, you would go to the hospital to get it x-rayed and set. But so many of us when we hit mental and emotional roadblocks, don’t reach out for help to the people who can help us most. I guarantee every one of those elite athletes have a support system. You do too, even if you don’t recognize it. Look around at those people who are walking alongside you or headed in the same direction as you.
Life, after all, is a Team Sport!