At a gym I visited recently, one of the large television screens was tuned to Olympics try-outs, specifically synchronized diving. It was a marvel to watch – the dives individually were extremely difficult and then to do them completely in sync with someone else? It was amazing – and quite beautiful and graceful.

But then another voice piped up in my head (and out of my mouth to my husband), “Isn’t that a complete waste of time? Spending hours practicing to dive in completely synchronization with someone else? It seems quite silly. And not useful preparation for what we like to call real life.

My husband politely corrected me. He pointed out the tremendous discipline required to achieve this level of mastery, surely a skill that translates well into so-called real life, not just in terms of career accomplishment but as a human being. The discipline and self-control required to devote all those hours to perfecting their dives, presumably to other exercises as well, and to eating appropriately should help make them calmer, more patient human beings, with the ability to focus on the end goal and not on short-term or immediate gratification.

As we were talking I thought of another potential benefit. Since it’s a sport that is done with a partner, it requires a certain humility and ability to forgive – humility to recognize the times when you may be at fault, when your lack of concentration or slightly imperfect timing may have thrown off the presentation and lowered the score. And the ability to forgive if it’s your partner who does the same. And the courage and poise necessary to keep going, to hold your head up even if you (or they) blow it.

If these life lessons are really being learned then it certainly isn't foolish (I was the foolish one!) but it is indeed an amazing training ground for real life. It’s actually more rigorous than life usually is. Although not impossible, it’s rare that one moment can so define our future, that there are no second chances, no opportunities for a redo. A project at work can be tweaked or even sent back to the drawing board. Part of the beauty of online publications is the ease with which corrections are made, mistakes are erased. And even in relationships, although we of course need to be careful, and some words once said or actions once committed, can’t be taken back, a sincere heartfelt apology can make a big difference.

Real life doesn’t have a lot of “make it or break it” moments – which is a blessing for us flawed human beings. We get to try again. We usually have the opportunity to make amends – even to the Almighty. But success in sports, after all the effort, the aforementioned discipline may come down to one game or even one dive! And there’s a lot to learn as a human being, a lot of growth available in determining how to handle those definitive moments.

Most of us aren’t trying out for the Olympics, but beyond the appreciation of the elegance of the dives – or the skating and gymnastics routine – or even a beautifully thrown pass, we can learn from their self-discipline and humility and try to apply the lessons to our own lives.