How to handle losing
A couple of weeks ago I talked about the psychology of winning and losing. This blog has far surpassed all others on my site and in a very short period of time. Today I am going to break down one of the components of from the psychology of winning and losing. How do you get yourself to a place where you can feel better/good about losing? That probably sounds crazy right? Well, it’s not! Sometimes you can feel much more successful when you’ve lost than if you’d won. If the score says you’ve lost but you played your best and you’ve met many of your expectations you feel successful.
Where do you start? YOU have to have your own expectations. I understand that parents and coaches have expectations of you but where do those (generally) come from? Ego and what they think you should or could do. That doesn’t make them wrong but many times other people’s expectations aren’t realistic, you don’t (really) understand them and they aren’t yours. The first place to start is by having your own expectations that YOU set and that are realistic for YOU to achieve. This will include an expected outcome: for example, I want to win and small micro process expectations: what do you need to focus on and do to win. In the alphabet you can’t go from A to Z. You have to go a, b, c, d,….expectations are similar. You can’t get to the outcome you desire without staying present in the process and essentially moving through the alphabet to the end.
Why is it important for you to have your own expectations? On one hand, because they are your’s, you’ll be more motivated to meet them and you’ll understand them. On the other hand, it will free you up from trying to meet what you think are the expectations other have of you. One of my musicians would go into an audition trying to be prepared for what 10 different people were looking for and wanting to hear. We talk about how in an audition there’s no way to meet 10 different people’s expectations. That was out of his control. However, when he started setting his own expectations (mini, micro, realistic process expectations) and worked toward those, he felt much more confident, present and in control during an audition and was able to play his music versus getting caught in what he thought (but didn’t know for sure) what others expected of him.
Why is being realistic important? I am frequently asked about the ‘stretch goal’. Yes, sure, stretch, but realistically. If your expectations are too achievable you won’t be motivated to meet them. If they are too far out there you are setting yourself up for failure. Not only is realistic important for motivation and confidence but it helps keep you present and moving through to your outcome.
Above, I brought up some other conversations around control and being present. Think about a time when you won. Did you feel like you were in control of what you were doing? How and why did that help? As humans, we automatically think we are in control of most everything we do but without thinking about it we give that control away; a lot. In sports, that frequently happens because you are off overthinking something when you should be present. You can’t be present 24/7 but you can train yourself to be more present and bring your presence back when it strays.
The last thing I want to leave you with for today is thinking about the art of reflecting. I work with many of my clients on reflecting after practice and competition: what went well, what was challenging and what can I work on tomorrow. Why? Whether you win or lose there’s always many positive things and it’s important to get in the habit of recognizing those things. It helps you to feel good about what you are doing. What was challenging is always easy because we are always focused on it and will remember it until our dying day but by writing it down it gets it out of your head. What can I work on tomorrow is actionable and it takes you out of the emotion of competition.
The first steps to feeling better about losing are to have your own realistic expectations and to get in the habit of reflection after practice and competition. What can you start to incorporate today?