This phrase has been running through my head often lately, both for myself and for many of the athletes I’ve been working with. I have certainly written on this topic before, but it’s worth talking about again… and probably again after that… and again some more. (That kinda rhymes, you’re welcome.)
“Everything happens for a reason” doesn’t feel good to hear or say when terrible things happen, when you’ve perceived failure, or you just plain don’t understand anything that’s going on.
“Trust the process” might not sound much better, but it always hits me a little harder.
I’ve been listening to this phrase from my dad, my coaches, my teammates, and even some of my friends for years and years. Life is full of weird twists and turns and sometimes you expect them and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes in sport you can predict what is going to happen… and sometimes you can’t.
This always rings true when we’re talking about injury. Sometimes you can predict an ACL tear if there was a lack of training, lack of recovery, weak hamstrings, or less than ideal genetics. But sometimes you get smashed in the knee while it is in the perfect position for a tear despite all other odds being in your favor and that, unfortunately, just happens sometimes.
For some athletes (….most) injury is a part of the process. We can look at this as a roadblock that slows your progress and ruins opportunities. We can let it defeat us or deter us from our goals. Or we can look at it as an opportunity for growth, to slow down and focus on your strength, your technique, your mindset; to dial it in and become more resilient, making the next obstacle coming for you more able to withstand.
Failure, too, is a part of this process. And a big one, at that. It’s not failing if we learn, right? That’s sure to grind your gears if it’s your senior year and you just missed the potentially game winning shot at the state championship basketball game. But as much as it is uncomfortable to hear, experiences like that are part of the process too.
I remember when I started throwing in college and I swear “trust the process” was every one of our track coach’s favorite things to say. As you are learning and growing and soaking it all in your freshman year, you start to wonder how long it will take for your body to adjust to the new training, new schedule, new techniques, new classes, new life. You get frustrated when things don’t click.
Trusting the process isn’t just a skill we develop to enhance our athletic performance. It’s a skill we develop for life. This is all one big gigantic process and if we lean into that and trust that the Universe knows a little better than we do, that’s quite the weight we can lift from our shoulders.
If we spent a little more time being mindful of our transitions, being compassionate with ourselves, and being open to receiving what the world has to offer us – it gets a little easier to start trusting the process. The harder we push and resist change, the more stuck we feel. We can choose to be open to receiving, learning, and growing (even from the hard stuff.) Or we can choose to be bitter, angry, frustrated, and stay stuck.
Think about a time in your life when you failed big time.
Maybe you said something to yourself that sounded a little like this:
“I can’t believe I spent so much time preparing for this and screwed everything up. I let everyone down. I am so far away from my goals right now it’s not even funny.”
But imagine what it would feel like to say something to yourself like this:
“Okay, that’s not what I wanted. But I’m just going to trust the process here. I’m going to lean into this and keep working at it.”
It might take some work getting to a place where you really are believing what you’re saying to yourself, but the pros outweigh the cons on this one. It’s worth a shot. The reality is that there is always going to be a bigger picture, you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see it.