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Rebounding After Disappointment & Failure
Well I have a confession. It has been four months since my last post. I wish my reason was a different one. I wish what had happened didn't. But it did. No excuses, but it definitely made me prioritize my life and unfortunately, this blog landed toward the bottom of the list.
I was never planning to use this space for personal stories per say. The plan was to utilize it specifically for my clients, about my clients, and topics my clients want. Very client oriented. As sport psychology and the mental aspect of sport and performance cannot be one dimensional, it should be no surprise to me that this is happening. Everything in your life connects and spills over. What happens in your personal life gives cause and effect to your performance just as what happens during a performance can give cause and effect to your personal life. It is a constant combination of action and reaction between every component of your life. Even if you are excellent at compartmentalizing, being able to separate performance and focus from distractions is a skill. More specifically, it is a mental training skill.
Although what happened to me was not performance related, it has in a way, inspired me. It is my most gut-wrenching life experience*. Up until this point, the top disappointing experience of my life was a sports experience. Which throughout these last four months, I have reminded myself how lucky I have been that a sports experience has been the worst. Although it shattered me at the time, I am beyond lucky if that has held the top spot as far as heartbreaking situations for 32 years.
No matter what difficult situation life throws at you, as far as loss and heartbreak, you must deal with grief and come to peace with what happened. Grief hits you in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You can come and go out of each stage and you can also be in multiple stages at once. Gaining acceptance and getting to the "end" takes time. As you deal with your own heartbreak, loss, disappointment, or failure, keep in mind these few secrets to help you cope. It is a battle and the more you understand that it takes time and effort and support, the more you will be able to come out better than before.
Failure is necessary.
Having a huge failure is eminent. If you are working toward lofty goals and pursuing your dream, you are bound to hit some bumps. Chances are that at some point you won't succeed. You can't get everything you want, every time you try. If we all did, the universe would implode. Be thankful you had your failure. Be thankful it happened now rather than later. If it had to happen have that get it over with' attitude. Don't let yourself fall into the perspective that this always happens to you and you are the worst ever. That's not true. Stick to facts. You tried and it didn't work out. Moving on..
Feel what you feel when you feel it.
If you need to be angry, be angry. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to be sad, be sad. If you need to be anxious, be anxious. It is okay that you feel the way you do, but don't hold onto it. Don't let it linger. Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel them. Don't have a fight-or-flight reaction. Don't hide or fight those reactions and don't run away from them. Live in them. Embrace them with open arms. Whether they come to the surface now or they sneak up on you later, they exist.
Assume the fly on the wall role.
What would your friend watching and listening to you say? How would they comfort you? An outside perspective has the advantage of clearly seeing what is real. They can disassociate what is' rather than what you were wishing for, longing for, hoping for, and ideally expecting. Things being imperfect is part of the human experience. It is what it is. From an external perspective, simplify what happened to you.
Don't should on yourself.
Remove all questions. In the scheme of your lifetime, it does not matter where blame lies, what you believe should have happened, the magnitude of how horrific it was, how it should have been different, or shouldn't have happened at all. If you haven't already, you will quickly notice the world keeps spinning. You are walking around this planet carrying this burden that could seem totally and unequivocally consuming. How could you possibly get over it? Stop judging the situation. That is not your job. Stop judging yourself. That is not your job. Stop comparing. That is not your job. If you are at all spiritual or religious, this is the time to recognize your faith. And whether you are or you are not, this is the time to remember that there is always something to learn. Always. Instead of questioning everything, create an opportunity to learn from it. If you notice a pattern of similar situations happening, you have not learned from past disappointments or what you did you learn is being tested. Learn what you can now.
Connect yourself back to the world.
Typically, when struggling through heartbreak, at some point you remove yourself from the world. It's time to come back now. Connect with a friend who has had a similar experience. Find a friend who could use your help. Do something social unrelated to your disappointment. Find a creative outlet through art, music, decorating, home and life organization, etc. Get back to old, healthy routines such as your workout schedule, meal prepping, clubs or organization meetings, and even weekly chores. Connecting with the outside world gives you a friendly reminder and nudge that you are not alone and shocker, you are not the center of the universe.
Celebrate what you are thankful for.
No matter how devastated you are or what horrific disappointment you have endured, I guarantee there is something to be grateful for. There is some part of your life that still brings you joy, happiness, success, comfort, stability, etc. Even in regards to your disappointing experience, how lucky are you that you even had something that you cared for that deeply or were that passionate about or had the opportunity to work so hard for? At any given time, many people don't have something they are super passionate or inspired by, but you did. You had it. Celebrate your passion. Celebrate what you have been through. One way is by connecting this phase or time in your life to music or through a keepsake. Having a song or item that you can hold onto to remind you that it happened. It's part of who you are now. It's a chapter in your story.
Do fast-forward imagery.
In ten years when you look back on this event, how will you have wanted to handle it? What reaction would your future self be proud of? Who will you want to be in ten years because this experience happened? What change do you want to see having happened between who you are today and who you will be ten years from today? It's a choice. Decide. Use the future to motivate your present actions.
Just eat your french fries.
I like using a french fry metaphor for dealing with mistakes or disappointments. Think about your favorite fast food french fries. Chances are there is always at least one french fry that is odd. It's discolored, hard, and disfigured. Ultimately there are three choices: you go ahead and eat it, you throw it out and continue eating the good' fries, or you throw out the whole batch because of that one gross fry. I'm sorry, but I'm not throwing out all my fries because of one bad guy in the bunch. The same is true for your heartbreak. You can let this event consume you and your life and quit, give up. You could keep moving along on the same path without learning anything or changing your behavior. Or, you can adapt and change and make yourself better because it happened. I prefer the third option. Choose to control what you can and let go of what you can't.
No matter what, you aren't alone and you aren't the first person to have this happen. Explore your resources, take ownership of your choices, and choose you. You got this.
*Full disclosure. As families and athletes share so much with me about their lives, triumphs, defeats, and secrets, and as I, myself, am a sharer and know the significance of connecting through personal stories, I want to be transparent. Although sharing this in a small blurb feels like I am dropping a bomb to unsuspecting souls, there's not really a great way to succinctly write this. Earlier this year, I was pregnant. At 11 weeks, I went into labor for three hours and had a miscarriage. If you are a man or haven't had this experience yourself, you (luckily) don't understand the degree to which this changes your life and how traumatic it is. If you are dealing with a similar issue and/or are looking for support, please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.