What advice do you have for dealing effectively with failure and adversity?
When we don’t deal effectively with failure and adversity, we ignore our experiences and don’t learn from them. Therefore, we get emotionally stuck, and have a tendency to make the same mistakes over and over again. We end up missing an opportunity to learn and grow.
If we take a different perspective, and recognize that failure and adversity are full of information and data, then we can begin to deal effectively with our mistakes.
As a coach, if my team doesn’t start games the way I want them to start games, then I can ask the question… what is the data telling us?
Let’s not fear this data. Let’s not fear loss. Rather, let’s start looking at what’s going on as a way to get better.
Once we understand and learn from the data, it’s important not to internalize the event. In other words, let’s not let it affect our confidence and self-concept. Rather, get “unstuck”, learn from it and move forward.
As a competitor, I may not have won the game, but that doesn’t make me a loser. I need to have a strong enough self-concept that the outcome of one game is not going to define me.
Or, as a perfectionist student, who is used to getting straight A’s, I need to realize that there is a difference between getting a B and dying. The perfectionist sees a B as death. Getting a B is not death. It’s just not being perfect. Can I still be ok and get a B? Or, do I internalize it and have it affect my self-concept?
A personal story comes to mind when discussing this concept of dealing with failure. I remember being a kid and learning how to water ski. I was with a group of kids at a summer camp and one day we all went out to the lake to learn how to ski. As we were standing in line, each waiting our turn, I noticed that most of the kids were falling. When it was my turn, the boat took me around the lake and I made it the whole way without falling!
At this point, I couldn’t wait for my next turn. I waited a little while, and when it was my turn, I made it around the whole lake again without falling. I did it three times without falling!
In the meantime, I’m watching everybody else not having as much success as I am, but they are continuing to try. They were gaining experience at falling that I didn’t have. Pretty soon, I’m starting to get really nervous about falling. Now, I’m getting really conservative in my skiing. I’m just holding my course. I’m not willing to go outside the wake. I’m not willing to take the risks necessary to be truly successful because I don’t know that I’ll still be okay.
So, I made myself fall to learn that I could be okay. It was scary, but I was okay. In the end, it made me a much better skiier.
Our ability to deal with failure and adversity can be a differentiator. It’s a competitive advantage.
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