Trying or Training: Predicting your own progress and potential

Imagine if a friend invited you to play in a dodgeball tournament at the local gym this weekend. For those of you that love the rush of competition and the thrill of whipping an object at total strangers, you'd be all in. You'd show up this weekend, stretch out a little bit, shake hands with your temporary teammates, and go at it. There's not a doubt in my mind that you would try very hard to destroy others and avoid getting destroyed.

Now image with me if a member of the U.S. Olympic committee showed up at your front door and identified you as the most likely candidate to win the gold medal at the Olympics in the triathlon but in order to tap into your hidden potential, you must start 7-day per week training immediately!

In the dodgeball tournament, you would try very hard and in the triathlon story you would train very hard. Trying and training are two very different things that if we take a moment and think about, I think we'd be more successful in accomplishing important things in our lives.

Try: a short term event requiring maximum effort. The results of trying are usually short-lived and have very little return on your investment. 
Train: a preparation for a pre-determined goal that requires regular and sustainable effort. The results usually have a lot of redeeming value and there is a plan in place for how to handle frustration. You simply return to your frustration.

There are lots of things in life that require a good 'ol fashioned try. You give it your best. However, there are really important things in life that we try too hard and don't train enough for. What are some of those things? I would put important roles you hold in your life at the top of this list. What would it look like to train to be a better parent, spouse, value-adder at work, or a Christ-follower? Here's my suggestions...

Reserve a short period of time everyday for your training. For me, this is in the quiet hours of the morning. For night owls, it may be after everyone in your house has gone to bed. For others, they may have flexibility during their lunch break. Early in your training, make it short so that it is sustainable. 10 minutes, added up over 30 days, is a lot of time spent training. As your commitment grows and results begin to show up, adding time will take place naturally.

Track your training. I've heard it said that if you aren't tracking progress, you aren't making progress. Find a way to track what you've done. Journaling, notes on your smart phone, crossing off days on a calendar. Seeing the compilation of your training efforts can inspire you to keep going.

Pick a source for your training. Books, podcasts, websites, blogs, or scheduled phone calls with someone that has made progress in the area you are training for are all sources of training. My son is an avid championship level distance runner. He has recently discovered that reading books about running is a great source of training for him.

Share your training experiences with others. I have found that talking about what I'm training for with others creates a lot of energy. Often, it's because I find that the person I'm talking to has had or is having a similar experience and that inspires me to keep going.

At different points in my life, I have been frustrated with the outcome of a situation in which I was trying very hard. However, I have found that I deal with frustration in a lot healthier way when it is in an area that I'm training for. I simply return to my training and keep moving forward.

Trying is great for dodging a ball thrown at your head. Training is much more valuable when trying to unlock your potential...even if you'll never be an Olympic triathlete.

Keep on, keeping on, everyone!

‘Bite Down and Don’t Let Go’ is a collection of writings on being intentional about life in a way that produces great persistence. Read about it more here.

Dr. Chris Hobbs is an educational leader and Director of Athletics at The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. He’s earned a few degrees and won some awards. He’s happily married to his high school sweetheart and they have three teen age children. Life is messy and complicated most of the time. You can follow him on Twitter for all sorts of inspirational thoughts and good laughs.