Whether you’ve been an athlete of not, we have all suffered defeat at some point in our life.
It’s a crappy feeling, not meeting the muster.
However, if we can transform our defeats into seminal experiences our lives will be better for it.
Three things come to mind.
Gift 1: Letting go of the past
“If I could have only done ‘x’ better, I would have nailed that presentation.”
You didn’t. So now what?
“If only my teammates would have hustled harder, we would have won, the game.”
They (and you) didn’t. So now what?
“If only I would have spent more time at the gym, I would have gotten those rock hard abs.”
You didn’t. So now what?
Trust me, I’ve spent way too long in my own head thinking about my past failed athletic, educational, and professional endeavors. What has it brought me? Lots of anxiety, remorse, and sadness.
I’m not saying to stop reflecting on what went wrong. What I am saying is to stop dwelling on things you can no longer control i.e. the past. Your only valued possession is the present moment, NOW. How will you use this moment to move your life forward towards your next goal?
Gift 2: Abandoning the ego
The human mind is an amazing tool. It has helped us split the atom and craft symphonies which stir the soul.
However, it does come with its own survival software that in the modern age, will cause us to doubt our abilities, question our worth, and prevent us from truly loving ourselves.
Each of us has in our brain an echo from our earlier evolutionary past. All animals have it: the part of our brain that keeps us out of danger.
On the other hand, it stops us from taking risks in our lives. It stops us from chasing our dreams. It stops us from taking chances. It’s main goal is self preservation, not only from a physical point of view (“You can’t jump through that fire. You will burn!”), but also from an emotional, psychological one as well (“You can’t participate in that competition. You do will poorly and then what will people think of you??!!”).
It’s time to let that fear go. It’s time to abandon your ego. You see, you are much more than what your mind tells you you are.
“What? If I am not my ‘thoughts’ than what am I? Are you saying ‘I think. Therefore, I am’ is a sham?”
Hear me out for a second.
The mind and its ego is a complex tool. Nothing more. We’ve used it to evolve far beyond other animals and build civilizations. All tools, however, can be abused.
To try and explain the far reaching effects of the ego is a concept that great philosophers have been grappling with for centuries. There is no way that this author will be able to tackle this topic to its fullest explanation here in this post.
However, what we can discuss is how the incessant mental chatter of the ego can be controlled and allow you to realize your goals.
Be in the Now – Fear arises from memories of past experiences or from the unknown of the future. Oddly enough, when we are still and focused on now there is no fear, only a quiet awareness. It is a peaceful state.
How do you get there?
Challenge yourself to be mentally and physically still for 5 minutes a day. No cell phone. No computer. No people. The trick is to sit and relax without your thoughts. To do this, focus on the sounds you hear, the sights you see, the feel of the chair upon which you sit, and/or the smell of the air. Notice them without judgment. For example, you sit and hear music outside. Simply notice the music instead of thinking, “country music? I hate country music. Why would anyone play country music? Etc…”
Every time a thought enters your mind, watch the thought come in to your consciousness, but then refocus your attention on a sight, sound, or feeling. With practice, you will be able to see thought arise, but then return to a state of presence. Here, you will start to find peace. It is an incredibly grounding activity and I highly recommend it to start your day.
People’s thoughts of you do not matter – So many of the defeats that we suffer come at the “hands” of other people without them having to strike a single blow. As stated before, most of us worry about what other people think of us. We are concerned with being viewed as weak, stupid, ugly, or simply not good enough. The fear of failing in the eyes of other people, whether they are our competition or, conversely, those who love us, is a huge barrier to us chasing something extraordinary.
People who judge you inherently struggle to overcome their own weakness and doubt. They can’t imagine themselves doing something amazing. So how is it that you can? The negative feedback we receive from others in response to us chasing our dreams is simply the projection of that person’s own inadequacy. If I can’t do it, what does it mean if you can?
When you start recognizing that the default position of most people is to play it safe, to do what everyone else does because that is just how it is, when you do something worthwhile (open a business, travel across the world, embark on a new fitness program) you are setting yourself apart from the majority of people. Embrace that uniqueness.
Gift 3: Gaining wisdom
Every action in life comes with the potential for something we would label a “mistake.” We create a presentation that bombs at the office. We cook a meal that turns out terrible. We try to lift a challenging weight and gravity laughs in our face.
Failure is an eternal truth of life. We will fail. We will fall flat on our face, break our nose, and smash our teeth….figuratively speaking.
However, it is only a failure if we do not reflect on the defeat and learn something from it. Could that presentation of had more visual aids or more audience participation to be successful? Should I have added more or less herbs to change the taste of the meal? Did I execute my lift with the correct technique?
By transforming failure from an act of loss into one of gain, failure becomes opportunity to improve. Dwell not on how crappy something you did was, but rather on how you will become better as a result of the experience. This is why people who are much older are, in general, sooooo much wiser than younger folks: they have been failing and LEARNING for decades.
Defeat is an amazing experience as it forces us to look more inward. The weaknesses of which you are ashamed will continue to be weaknesses only if you refuse to examine them. By delving deeply into uncomfortable thoughts and past experiences can we gain the necessary understanding to free us from our own fears and ultimately live a life of happiness.