Good skills come to those who wait

I am grateful for technology. From the palm of my hand I can choose a TV show or playlist and pop it on any number of speakers in my flat. Streaming – channeling things in realtime – is an amazing development.  

It is easy to forget the time when we had to wait for things. Downloading things took ages. You could set your dial-up interwebs to fetch the new album you wanted for your iTunes and go away and watch a whole evening of TV, only for it to still be on track 8 when it was time for bed.  

With streaming showing us how streamlined life can be, it’s easy to forget that we aren’t machines ourselves.  

Every Monday I go swimming. Well, I should go swimming. I mostly now do go swimming on a Monday. Last year I didn’t. It has taken a year for me to be courageous enough most weeks to know that if I get to the pool and get into the pool, it won’t be so bad.  

But every Monday I beat myself up: “You’re so slow”, “You’re making no progress”, “You have always been **** at swimming! Everyone used to laugh at you for being really slow” (this part might not have been real but try telling our brains that!). 

I want to be able to stream swimming knowledge and technique into my brain and my muscles so that I can swim better, but that’s not how it works.  

Every Monday that I get into the pool, every length I swim, every one of the stupid drills I do that make me feel like I am going to sink… I download a few more bytes of information. Slowly, slowly, they are accumulating, even though I can’t feel progress. 

I can’t listen to the album yet because the bytes aren’t all there. And I can’t listen to the whole album without all the bytes… so I just have to keep turning up.  

With whatever it is we’re working hard to improve, we aren’t going to see the benefits streamed in real time. So long as everything is working well enough and the “album” (new achievement) we’re downloading is worth the wait, we need to stick with the slow progress and resist the temptation to hitting ‘cancel’ and walk away.  

Sometimes it feels like the download has stalled altogether, and all the effort – the bandwidth – would have been wasted. Patience is a really difficult thing to hold onto when you’re ready for whatever it is you’re working towards. We just need to trust the connection. 

Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.

Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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