The Power of Patience

TAGS: passive patience, active patience, gaining perspective, rome, Delayed Gratification, perseverance, ifbb pro, Mark Dugdale, john meadows, bodybuilding

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Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Good things come to those who wait.  Wait upon the Lord.

These common phrases often encapsulate the rally cry of those stuck in limbo – waiting. For the record, my inclination is slanted towards impatience. However, I’ve learned over the past 22 years competing in bodybuilding that a power resides in patience. Success in this sport often hinges on varying degrees of it and its absence will most certainly set you up for disappointment and failure.

Delayed Gratification

I’ve heard it said that the mark of true maturity is the ability to engage in delayed gratification. This requires a number of things, but perhaps the greatest is patience. The patience to put off what you want today to ensure you can fully enjoy something later on. It’s extremely difficult for young bodybuilders and I’ll argue for many it stems from a lack maturity. Think about dieting to compete. The most shredded guy on stage likely looked upon countless food options and chose delayed gratification to achieve his conditioning.

I’ve seen countless amateur guys load up on drugs simply because they won’t trust the process. They want to be on top now and subsequently cloud their thinking with shortsightedness. Gaining 20-30 pounds of quality muscle requires a ton of work in the gym and in the kitchen cooking meals. It also takes patience in the process. I aimed for five pounds of contest weight per year in my 20’s. Five pounds seems like nothing, but over 10 years that’s fifty pounds. That much contest-conditioned muscle is profound.

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In the book of Hebrews it says this in regards to Jesus, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Regardless of your biblical convictions, this is essentially saying that Jesus subjected himself to a crucifixion on a cross with patience. Why? Because he looked beyond the agony of the cross and saw the joy that was to come when he crushed the reign of sin and ushered in relational reconciliation between God and man. The power in patience sometimes comes in knowing what’s on the other side and setting aside today’s desire for tomorrow’s joy.

Active vs Passive

Yeah, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they also didn’t sit on their ass waiting for the empire to miraculously materialize. The same concept is rooted in the context of the scripture: wait upon the Lord. I’ll argue that it’s an active waiting.

Sometimes changing the way you talk about something forces the mind to start thinking differently. The heart often follows the mind and, at that point, you’re dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that heart-fueled passion driven by an unwavering mindset is a wrecking ball in the face of obstacles. I’ve seen this played out in the bodybuilding trenches and we all need look no further than my coach and good friend John Meadows.

John wasn’t gifted with heath-like genetics and nearly died from a rare health complication several years back. Competing nationally in the NPC since 1998, it took him 17 years until this year’s Team Universe Masters to obtain IFBB Professional status. Never mind that John’s long been a pro in most people’s eyes, but for him it wasn’t official until the pro card was in hand. On a side note, he cracked the top five in his first three IFBB pro competitions this summer as well!

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Here’s the point. John didn’t open his mouth with excuses. I’m guessing he’s doubted himself along the way, but he kept telling himself this goal was achievable. His mind followed suit and so did his heart. His passion trumped the negatives and smashed through the setbacks. John was patient, but that patience wasn’t a passive waiting. Thus, much power resides in a patience that’s active.

Gaining Perspective

Monumental goals often take years to come to fruition. However, here is something to consider: The finish line looks completely different while standing at the starting line than it does standing on the finish line. Let that sink in for a moment. Waiting is a pain in the ass, but it can actually become a gift which leads to a change in perspective. Sometimes the unexpected derails our progress, leaving us short of the finish line. Frustrating, sure, but it also allows us a clearer picture of the goal which may not be as golden as we perceived from the starting line.

I’m fiercely competitive, but haven’t won a contest since the 2004 USA overall. That’s 11 years in the IFBB with numerous second place finishes, but not a single first. On a number of occasions over those 11 years, getting a win consumed and frustrated me. At times I blamed others and blamed myself. Winning is cool, but here is my takeaway. Gaining the humility which comes from coming up short and soul searching for reasons to find motivation gave me more than any first place trophy offered. I learned the grit required to push forward in bodybuilding and in life.  Perseverance builds character. I learned sometimes life’s best lessons are learned in the midst of a tough season if we commit ourselves to patience.

Mark's Training Log 

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