A second chance can be rare, so it is critical to have the right mindset, says Jeremy Snape. Every high performer experiences painful setbacks during their career.
While unwelcome and distressing, the big question is how you deal with them. Will you recover or fold? To recover is not just about trying again, but bolstering your skills to become more resilient than you were before.
Successful professional athletes draw on games they lost to win the next match. They accept that mistakes and setbacks happen but focus on the learning rather than the pain of the outcome.
To achieve this you must have the right mindset. So how do you toughen up and get back in the game when everything you were looking to achieve seems to be in shreds?
What went wrong?
Objectivity is the key, so identify where your mistakes or plans failed and focus on the elements you can control. Worrying about what could have been won’t help but taking personal responsibility for the two to three key mistakes or poor decisions which you made will be the key to moving on.
Boris Becker, a former number one tennis player and Wimbledon great, says “It’s how you take failure, it’s how you take losing. I learned my best and hardest lessons after a loss and obviously you don’t want to lose too much. But the proper evidence whether I was wrong in my approach to a tennis tournament was if I didn’t win the title and that hurt the most so I wanted to do better the next time.”
Tracking back into your own personal bank account of resilience can provide useful clues and perspective when you are in the middle of a setback. Looking back at your mindset, your support network and the small steps you took to recover from previous challenges will help you to replicate that again. This isn’t about ignoring what is going on, it’s about trying to find small actions that you can do today to move on.
Retain your ambition
Keeping your hunger to achieve is vital even if that means recalibrating the goal. Our biggest regret often isn’t the losing but losing our minds in the heat of battle.
I experienced such a setback in 2002 playing a one day international in Calcutta against India where England was chasing a big score. If I’d handled things calmly, I could have won the game but instead I played a high-risk shot and ended up walking back to the pavilion.
Coming back from that I realised that everyone has a psychological breaking point. Talent is not always enough. You need that ability to think clearly under pressure.
Being self-aware is the start, what are your strengths and where might your skills be exposed? Once you know these factors your preparation should focus on maximising your strengths and covering your Achilles heel.
The combination of these factors will give you the confidence you need to start again, this time more wisely.
Allow time to recover
Giving yourself some downtime is also vital to recovering from the emotional toll. Your acts in the same way as your muscles after being worked to overload, with rest the damaged fibres return stronger than before.
John Coates, a senior research fellow in neuroscience and finance at the University of Cambridge, says “acute stressors followed by recovery is a beautiful pattern for building resilience. But in a period of chronic stress, suffering these stressful situations with no recovery period, the stress response can be acting like acid on your body and have the exact opposite effect to acute stress.”
Coming back from a setback will take time so having a balanced strategy will be key to your long term performance. Working harder not smarter won’t solve the problem, but keeping your perspective and reconnecting with your support network will ensure that you are able to talk things through and gain fresh perspectives from those who want you to succeed the most. Every champion has a failure on their CV, rather than turn your back on it, use it as your motivation to prove your doubters wrong.
Jeremy Snape is the managing director of business psychologists Sporting Edge and a former England cricketer
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