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Using every experience to your advantage


The art of turning negative experiences into positive ones is a useful tool to possess as an athlete.

Experiencing loss is an inevitable part of sport, and the hallmark of a world-class athlete is someone who meets these ebbs in the most constructive way possible.

This document outlines some of the most effective strategies and philosophies to deal with loss.

Don’t let mistakes get the better of you

Whenever you experience loss in your sport it is easy to dwell on mistakes.

It is important to recognise loss as an unavoidable facet of sport. Even the greatest sporting legends experience loss and defeat.

The moment that mistakes and setbacks are accomdoated as inevitabilities they lose their ability to disrupt your emotional wellbeing.

Embracing and understanding that your next loss could just be around the corner, provides you with the mental armoury to weather the loss when it materialises.

It is important not to confuse the concept of acceptance with apathy.

You should care about making mistakes. However, the occurence of mistakes should be met in a calm and objective way.

When mistakes are met with frustration anger and stress, further internal turmoil that is created, which damages subsequent performances.

What you focus on you attract towards you. The longer you dwell on past mistakes, the more likely they are to reoccur.

If you regularly dwell on past mistakes complete the following exercise.

It is called thought squashing.

  • Close your eyes
  • Focus on the mistake you have just made.
  • Notice the pictures, and the sounds that your mind generates when you think about your mistake.
  • Now, take the pictures your mind is creating and turn them upside down. If the pictures are in colour drain the colour out of them, so they become black and white. If the pictures are moving freeze them. Now stick a crack through the image and shatter it into a thousand pieces. Finally blow the pieces off into the distance.
  • If you mind is generating sounds, imagine that your mind has a volume control, and mute the sounds. Usually sounds come in the form of a critical voice, especially after a mistake has been committed.
  • Any negative feelings attached to your mistake should begin to evaporate.
  • Negative feelings are usually the by-product of the pictures and sounds that you are making in your mind

    Learn from your mistakes

    Without making mistakes, learning is unlikely.

    “Experience enlarges the mind,” Joseph Conrad

    Failure should be met as a friend and not as an enemy. By exploring ways, actions and behaviours that don’t work,  you take one step closer to finding a winning combination. As Anthony Robbins famously said ‘failure is feedback.’

    Take a look at the quotes that pay testament to the importance of making mistakes:

    ‘If you want to become a success you need to double your rate of failure.’ Tom Watson Founder of IBM

    “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions, as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” Friedrich Nietzsche

    “Success is about going from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

    The best time to extract the learning lessons from a defeat is after the event. Write 5 things down that you have learned after every defeat. Then consider how to accomodate the information into your performance, next time. 

    Onto Part Two

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    Click here to read part two of this article.

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