How is failure a success? If you’re not sure, it may be time to look at failure from a different vantage point.
Failure is positive feedback. Stay with me, and you’ll see it’s true. Can you imagine if you didn’t know you failed? Or you never experienced failure? That somehow, you could just bypass this experience all together?
How would you know what to do differently next time? What negative emotional experience would motivate you to dig deeper?
The fact is, failure is a crucial self correcting mechanism if you let it be.
Tiger Woods twice changed his swing and suffered quite a bit of failure in the process. His game suffered until he was able to work through the process which ultimately resulted in a new, superior skill.
Actually, Tiger seems to have a desire to welcome failure just so he can see what he can change it into. He spoke to Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes about his tendency to ‘play’ with impossible shots.
"As a kid, I might have been psycho, I guess, but I used to throw golf balls in the trees and try and somehow make par from them. I thought that was fun. Because sometimes it's boring just hitting a normal golf shot."
Tiger doesn’t expect to lose in a tournament, in fact he goes in always expecting a win. But he is willing to lose or fail sometimes along the way to get better.
So the next time you hit a slump or suffer some losses, take another look. Mine those experiences for all they’re worth, don’t just bemoan them. And remember: nothing succeeds like failure.
1. Openness: Are you open to receiving feedback, even if it’s difficult to listen to? Or are you more likely to shut down to save face? Fear can lock us all up from changing. Some athletes can get too invested in playing a certain role, and in essence taking themselves too seriously. Strive to be loose rather than rigid with your expectations. A dash of humour about your weaknesses can really open the door to increased relaxation and progress.
2. Humility: The Zen tradition states that the best student is one with “beginner’s mind”. That is to say that the notion of ‘expert’ is tossed in favour of the attitude of a ‘perpetual learner’. Sometimes athletes can get too caught up in what they know, or think they know. Suspension of judgement and openness to experimentation can lead to important insights. Try clearing your mind of preconceived notions the next time you head out to train. Be a beginner again and see where it leads.
3. Desire: This quality makes itself known in a myriad of ways. Most importantly though, desire shows itself in commitment. Are you consistent with your commitments to your training and your coach? It’s important to clarify that desire does not equal talent. And talent does not always equal success and/or enjoyment. So don’t get caught up in how much talent you think you have or don’t have. Focus on the “why” behind your sport- what drives your motivation.
4. Awareness: A coachable student is one who has cultivated the ability to step back and self observe. What do the sport experiences you are having add up to? What is the core or the pattern? A pet peeve I have heard over and over from coaches is that athletes don’t have a realistic sense of where they are and what they are doing. Calgary trainer Debbie Garside: “I would much rather have a rider with an 'A' brain and 'C' talent, than the reverse of that.” Strive to use many sources to inform yourself about yourself. Use feedback from other sources beside your coach, actively seek it out.
5. Discipline: Discipline is another way of saying you have the skill of self-control. You can apply order to your daily tasks, even make yourself do things you really don’t want to do. It’s called having a work ethic. One or two hours a week with a coach will not turn you into an effective athlete. Coaches love students who come back for the next session having applied some of their learning on their own time. This is perhaps the hallmark of a coachable student, one who is able to coach themselves.
Have you ever found yourself thinking this way?
“I hope this is a better season for me”
“I really want to score more goals”
“I wish I could improve faster”
These are not the thoughts of a focused athlete. Wanting and wishing will not get the job done, and hoping defies a weak expectancy. Unless you want to join the millions of disappointed New Year’s resolution-setters this year, get in the know about what it takes to set an effective goal that will get you to your destination.
Dream goals are important for vision and motivation. You might dream of the Olympics or a National title. This desire can serve as fuel for those tough times and help make the necessary commitment to move toward what you want. But, a dream goal is a type of outcome goal, which when used exclusively can cause undue stress and reduce confidence. An outcome goal has to do with a particular objective result (win or lose). We can never have complete control over results, as there are many variables that come into play on any given day to influence competition. So you might perform a personal best but still feel defeated because you didn’t win.
For the sake of your confidence you will also want to set process goals, which are based on personal performance targets or skills to be developed. These are the types of goals you do have control over, and are the way you ultimately build your belief in yourself as an athlete. A process goal should define what you will do each day specifically in training. For example, improving endurance could mean higher reps or longer cardio sessions. The process is definitely tied to the outcome, and makes it more probable of attaining what you want, but most importantly it defines the action you must engage in every day.
It can be said that every medal and every championship will be won or lost at home, in training. The more iron clad your process, the more your performance seems to take care of itself.
Finally, be sure to write it all down. Invest in an appealing new journal and make it your new best friend. Take it everywhere, recording not only your goals but other elements adapted to your own preferences. For example: training schedules, motivational quotes and pre performance routines.
So this season, don’t just wish for better results, plan to make them a reality.
If you’re a someone who dreams big, you may encounter doubters and most certainly obstacles. Here are 5 ways to get you closer to your ultimate destination.
- Choose your people. If you have big dreams, then you don't want just anyone on your committee. Choose your “go to” people carefully and allow only them to weigh in on your goals and progress. Everyone else is not welcome!
- Define your vision, then let it go. Big dreams can get heavy when you carry them around all the time. They can also start to feel overwhelming. They are however important fuel for your journey. So dream a clear picture and then like a helium filled balloon let it fly into the universe.
- Map out your process. Once you have that clear picture in mind you’ll want to back up and begin to chart your map. What steps come just before your big goal, and then which ones before that. Keep going until you know exactly what you will do tomorrow to get your dream.
- Expect and embrace hardship. Not every step is going to feel pleasant and enjoyable. It’s normal and natural to encounter rough patches and learning moments. Don’t forget most of these will be instrumental in you achieving your goals. So go ahead and thank the hard times, knowing they are moving you closer.
- Keep the love. Why is your dream important to you? This passion will act as your fuel through good times and bad. Keep the love close by posting a visual reminder of your goal somewhere you pass by frequently. Try an inspirational picture on the fridge or special quote on a post it in the bathroom.
Why do many athletes say their sport is “80% mental”, and yet their training plan does not incorporate their brain? What is the disconnect? One reason may involve not knowing how to integrate the mental component into training. I have a suggestion for you.
Start by tying a part of your regular routine with some mental preparation. For example, what if every day as you stretched you mentally rehearsed key learning moments from your previous day’s practice? What if every day as you tied your shoes or skates you reviewed a process goal you wanted to keep in mind that day? What if every day you wrote one key word on the inside of your wrist that corresponded with something you were trying to achieve more like “risk”, “attack”, or “patience” to remind you of a focus? The truth is there are many “anchors” already present in your physical routine that you can begin to use as an association to a mental process.
Get out there and experiment, and adopt the habit of training your mind in conjunction with your body.
Music fan or not, evidence suggests indulging in some tunes can help your performance. Costas Karageorghis, associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England researches music and its impact on athletic performance. His findings just might have some bearing on your next training playlist selection.
Repetitive types of exercise can become tough slogging at times, even for the most addicted. When thoughts and feelings of fatigue interrupt your flow, music can help you get back on track. Numerous studies by Karageogphis have found an increased resilience to uncomfortable exercise moments through the use of music. The right track can help narrow your focus and help divert attention away from those nasty negative thoughts. Because music is something to help take you away from the unpleasantness of the present moment, it is referred to as a ‘dissociative strategy’. Not surprisingly, once you get distance from a harmful track of thinking, you are apt to work longer and harder.
And yes, there does exist a “right” music of sorts. Karageogphis is also the creator of the Brunel Music Rating Inventory. An instrument designed to rate the motivational qualities of music. His research reveals for a track to inspire, it must have strong rhythmic qualities that match your workout. Typically, this means more up-tempo tunes are apt to keep you striding strongly. Olympic 10,000 gold medal winner Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie’s most beloved running tune is the techno song “Scatman”.
Personal preference does reign here, just think less Dave Mathews and more Black Keys- then you’ll be off to a good start.
Some other tips to get the most from your playlist include:
- Consider synchronizing your running to your music. BPM or beats per minute can be matched with steps per minute. For an excellent and free selection of various BPM mixes, try Podrunner.com.
- Think personal. A music track does not need to be related to sport to be motivating. Anything that resonates with a desire to fulfill your goals and carry on through adverse moments can help.
- Ask yourself what your emotional needs are, and then select a match. If you’re prone to an over focus on outcomes and you blast yourself with songs about winning at all costs you will send your pressure gauge through the roof.
Music does have proven emotional and neurochemical impact. Ask any athlete who has utilized music as a regulation strategy designed to enhance performance. Music can be used to calm anxious states prior to competition or boost energy levels when it’s time for action. In order to really appreciate the vast mood altering possibilities of music, you may consider picking up a copy of the entirely readable This is your Brain on Music
by Daniel Levitin. When our minds have a pleasurable experience, a flow neurotransmitters accompanying the feeling. Music can elicit a rise in the levels of serotonin your brain produces and viola- you get instant mood improvement.
So…what are your current favorite training tunes? Please share!