Lets begin by agreeing that nobody likes to lose. Accordingly, this post is in no way promoting losing, encouraging losing, or suggesting that losing should be a goal for athletes. What I am saying, however, is that losing is a part of life, and something that can’t be avoided if you are a competitor. As such, it makes sense to examine the psychology behind losing, including how to learn from losing by developing a more galvanized mental and physical toughness after experiencing a loss.
Forget yesterday’s defeat, or learn from it?
Just like nobody likes to lose, nobody likes to think back about yesterday’s loss, either. In fact, I find that most athletes are quick to dismiss bad games — but should they be? While it’s understandable why an athlete wouldn’t want to go back and review a loss, the likelihood for making the same mistakes remains high if the loss is not reviewed and studied. In other words, by examining losses we can learn what not to do the next time out, even if it stings to have to sit through the tough game again.
Athletes who study their bad days generally see much faster skill acquisition and mastery compared to athletes who deny they have specific talent areas to improve upon. Arguably the best way to specify weaknesses to improve is to closely examine the bad plays, tough moments, and yes — losses from the past.
Get through the emotions, then study up!
One tip I offer my clients is to take a day after a tough loss and get the emotions out, if necessary. Some athletes respond to tough days through sadness, others through anger, and still others simply by giving their mind a mini respite. Regardless, once the emotional period ends (I suggest no more than a day or two), it’s important to go back with a critical eye and review what just happened. Some questions you might want to ask yourself include:
- Was I fully prepared? If not, why?
- What could I have done better (specifically)?
- What skills do I need to learn/master based on feedback from this game?
- What specific, measurable goals can I develop to improve my weaknesses moving forward?
If you are looking to learn the differences between good and great when it comes to athletic talent, look no further than here. Simply put, great athletes (like great people) aren’t afraid to own up to their shortcomings, and they make it a point to review their bad days in order to improve for the future. Conversely, athletes who don’t reach their full potential often deny their weaknesses, or refuse to review games where they didn’t play their best.