Teamwork, good sportsmanship, being gracious in both defeat and victory – these are the common life lessons widely touted as the result of participation in sports. All valid, but without meaning unless the underlying specifics are identified and described.
So, here are five of those more specific lessons that make up a winning formula for adult life.
It’s not easy to stick with it when you face adversity and major obstacles. Consider the case of Bethany Hamilton, now nicknamed as the ‘soul surfer.’ Bethany lost an arm and a huge amount of blood from a shark attack, at the age of 13. Undaunted, she returned to the water a month after the attack. She then competed in several world surfing competitions. Today she’s an author and motivational speaker.
As adults, you will come across many ‘bumps in the road,’ personally and professionally. The only way to get over them is perseverance. Thomas Edison was right: “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
2. Being prepared
Good athletes stay in a state of preparedness. They don’t miss practices, they study their competition, they assess their strengths and weaknesses, and work to improve their skills.
This was a lesson I learned as a competitive swimmer in college. My event was the breaststroke, and my weakness – the thing that kept me from first-place wins – was my arm strength. My coach provided extra exercise which also took extra hours, but the end result was successful, although not expected. When our top butterfly contender fell ill with the flu, I had to fill in. That arm strength gave me a win in an event I had never before considered.
My freelance career as a writer had a bumpy start. I was not prepared to venture into all the writing venues that would be required for success. It took some solid assessment of my writing weaknesses and major work to turn them into strengths. Fortunately, I had also learned perseverance, and this combo was the right formula.
3. Asking for help
Athletes have coaches, and they learn the value of that help. Taking instruction and advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear, is a good habit to acquire.
No one gets to the top without the help and support of others.
Finding mentors early on in your career, taking their advice and instruction, is a critical key to success. And, when superiors present critical analyses of your performance, receiving that feedback well and acting on it means that self-improvement is important to you.
4. Holding self and others accountable
“The buck stops here” is a famous quote from President Harry Truman, and it’s a great principle in life.
They don’t blame the referees; they figure out how to ‘fix’ what went wrong.
We all know people who blame their failures and the negative conditions in their lives on anyone or anything but themselves. They often speak about ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ as the reason why some succeed and others fail.
When you blame others, you lose the power to make changes that will turn things around. Don’t be that person.
5. Knowing there’s always tomorrow
There is an optimism that athletes develop, even in the agony of defeat. After the initial disappointment, they move on, knowing there will always be the next game, the next event that will allow them to show their skills. They will work on new approaches and strategies.
What a great approach to setbacks – an approach I also refined while swimming. Now, when something I write is rejected or criticized, I move on to the next task with new determination.
There are many ways to learn these important life lessons, but sport is the one activity that teaches them all at once. Get involved, learn them, and get your formula for success.