I talked to an athlete who told me about a moment during a game where it was up to him to make an unusually difficult move that would determine the outcome of the contest. He reached for the strength and the speed he needed, and it just wasn’t there. Later he remembered how he had skipped some recent training sessions, and how he hadn’t followed his regimen of diet and sleep for the days prior to the game. As a result, when the big moment arrived, he reached for an ability that just wasn’t there, because he hadn’t prepared sufficiently to create that ability.
We all do this. When I was young I participated in a piano competition, and during an especially tough passage, I simply could not play the notes in the way I wanted. I knew the notes. I knew exactly how I wanted that passage to sound. But I had not practiced sufficiently that my hands could freely play the notes with the ease and expression I desired. I reached for an ability that was not there.
On the other hand, I have devoted a great number of years and hours to eliminating my anger, removing distractions from my life, and learning to love people. As a result, on most occasions, when I reach for the capacity to love someone, the ability is there, and the rewards are beyond description.
We’re all in training. All the time. We can thoroughly enjoy each moment of life, but at the same time we’re training for something better. If we persist in our efforts, increasingly we discover that the abilities we need are there when we need them. Sadly, most of us neglect our training. We skip the difficult lessons. We indulge an addiction or two. We make excuses for performing badly. And then—inevitably—the moments arrive when we really need a certain quality or ability. We need it badly, so with all our hearts we reach for it, yearn for it, even pray for it. But it’s not there, because we simply have not prepared.
There are no shortcuts in preparation. Recently a woman wrote to ask me what she needed to do in order to be a Real Love coach, but she has never done her own emotional work. She is still mired in ego, pride, anger, detachment, and a need to be right. She has not sufficiently felt the healing balm of unconditional love. So how could she possibly offer to other people the healing she has not experienced herself?
Just the other day a woman I know made the decision to divorce her husband. She had made consistent efforts to feel more loved and to be more loving to others, but her husband refused absolutely to participate. Months ago they were both miserable, angry and completely detached from each other. But she chose to learn another way—a loving and happy way—while he remained in the same pit he had occupied all his life.
One day he said to her, “How can you be so calm about all this? We’re getting divorced, and you don’t seem to be bothered.”
“Oh, I would have preferred that our marriage work out differently,” she said, “but I’ve been surrounding myself with people who love me, and allowing myself to feel God’s love. So I’m full. I’m happy, despite the difficulty of our present situation. And if you wish, you can have everything I have.”
This woman encountered one of those very difficult experiences in life—divorce—and when she reached for the peace, calm, and strength she needed, those conditions were there. She had prepared for them. She had a firm grasp on them.
When the time arrives that we need strength or skill or a feeling of love and calm, the time for preparation is past. We discover that either we have the needed quality, or we do not. The time to prepare is now.