Mental Edge: How to turn losses into lessons

Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier

“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

This phrase was the introduction to a sports show called “The Wide World of Sports” to describe the human drama of athletic competition. Athletes seek a sense of joy and accomplishment when they succeed in sports. Likewise, you sometimes have pain when you fall short. That pain can be from disappointment — from working so hard all year long and just missing your goal.

That pain can be frustration from making a critical mistake at the end of the season. That pain can stem from anger over a bad call that knocked your team out of the playoffs. Growing pains are the experiences you gain when things don’t go according to plan, when you fall short of what you set out to achieve or when unfortunate circumstances strike at the most inopportune time. The experience gained from growing pains can mentally prepare you to get the next level.

Denver Nuggets NBA All-Star Paul Millsap once said:  “You can talk all you want, but until you really get into it, and get into the thick of things, you can’t really understand what [the playoffs] feels like. Growing pains are a part of life, definitely a part of basketball. So you’re going to have pains, growing pains. And you’re going to have lessons within them that you have got to learn.”

How to turn losses into lessons:

After each competition, no matter if you win or lose, or how well you performed, find two takeaways that can improve your performance in future competitions.

These lessons can be physical (improving condition, agility, footwork, etc.), technical (strengthen specific techniques) or mental (improve confidence, manage perfectionism, etc.). Use past experience to help you grow and improve your game for the future. Having a growth perspective is critical for your success and a positive mindset.

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