Juliet Elliott is a journalist and racer who has endured more than her share of set-backs and injuries. Here she explains how you can take the pain of failure and use it to come back stronger and eventually achieve your #MySummerGoal
For most of us, having a target in mind is hugely motivating. Goals help us put our hard work into context, reminding us why we’ve set our alarm clock early, or why we said ‘no’ to that drink after work.
But what if you feel like you’ve messed up? If you miss your run, skip the gym or put in a bad performance at an event, it can be easy to lose heart and feel like you’re not going to get where you want to be. But it’s important not to let these little wobbles derail your hard work.
“It can be easy to think, ‘I’m rubbish, what’s the point?’ when you’ve just had a bad day, a lazy weekend or a particularly fruitless training session,” says Mark Dolan of Epic Coaching. “But if you go about it the right way, failures can be hugely motivating and insightful.”
Once you understand just how important failure is, you might even begin to embrace it. A 2015 study interviewed 10 Olympic athletes about setbacks in their careers, such as failing to be selected for a squad or missing a key performance goal. The study found that “adversity-related experiences were deemed to be vital in the psychological and performance development of Olympic champions”.
It’s thought that mistakes are a vital part of the learning and development process and when coupled with the increased motivation you may experience after your initial disappointment, they can give you the edge you need to succeed.
Here’s how you can use failure as a tool for success.
1. Remember why you set goals
We set goals because they’re hard to achieve and if they weren’t hard to achieve there wouldn’t be any satisfaction. Don’t forget – the sweetest victory is the one you fought for the most.
2. Identify the cause
Regardless of the activity you’re taking part in, be it light jogging, amateur bike racing or Olympic acrobatics, an enormously complex number of things come together to make you perform well. Tactics, fitness, confidence, recovery, frame of mind and experience are just a few of them. Reflect on which of these factors was responsible for a particular failure or set-back, to know where to focus your training in future.
3. Make new mistakes, not old ones
If you keep making the same mistakes, clearly you aren’t progressing – but if you continue to make new mistakes, that’s fine. You’re doing things differently and learning on your journey.
4. Look at your progress as a whole
One skipped training session will not make a huge difference to your long-term goals. What’s important is the overall pattern of your training. Look back at how you’ve progressed since you started and feel good thinking about all the time you’ve put in so far.
5. Use it as a stepping stone
One of the greatest things about doing badly is the motivation it gives you to succeed. Think of failures as stepping stones to success. If everyone gave up when they didn’t achieve their goals, competitive sport would cease to exist – not everyone can win all of the time. Take time to enjoy the process and remember: the only real failure is to do nothing at all.
Haven’t set your #MySummerGoal yet? Go to mysummergoal.co.uk and do it today.