Turn mistakes into victories
by Spots Fuel Life
Photos: Geoff Schneider:Sports Union
Whether you’re working to become a better team player or improve a specific skill, there is one strategy guaranteed to help you evolve as an athlete. That strategy? Putting your mistakes into play. When we acknowledge the role of our mistakes in the game, we always get a win.
Sometimes when people hear “mistake” they hear “failure,” but a mistake is only a failure when it doesn’t teach. If you want to know how to cope with mistakes like a pro, here it is: Don’t dismiss them. Don’t obsess over them. Put them to use.
Here are 4 ways you can turn your mistakes into victories and improve your game, on and off the field.
Practice introspection as well as reflection.
Most athletes will take the time, whether they want to or not, to reflect on the circumstances that led to making a mistake in a game or at practice. They will consider what they could have done differently and what they need to do next time to get a different result.
But it is the confident athlete who takes it the step further and considers the invisible factors that influenced their mistake as well. Introspection is the practice of observing your own mental and emotional processes. Our bodies are deeply influenced by our mental states and our emotions, and so our relationship to mistakes is an important one to be aware of. Learning what inspires, and transpires from, our mistakes gives us the advantage. It puts us on home field.
Find the positive spin.
Mistakes can easily become distractions run wild in your mind, so keeping your composure in sports can be a sport of its own. Sometimes letting go of mistakes in sports is not as easy as it is to spiral into the feelings of disappointment. This is where it helps to find the positive spin. If you look at your mistakes from all angles, even in the tough cases you're bound to find some value in it. When you can find the positive spin to your mistake, it’s hard not to appreciate what it has to offer, and this creates the feedback loop of growth that keeps making you better at what you do.
Integrate what you learned.
This might seem obvious. Of course if we learn something from a mistake we will implement it the next chance we get, right? But this is another aspect of learning that distinguishes the mature athlete from the rest. No matter how painful, nor how small, the mistakes that we make, if we don’t implement the lesson, its value may be lost. This is where practice comes in.
Integrate what you have learned with how you play. Don’t wait until the next time you’re put in a scenario to see if you learned the lesson, practice with your new mindset as soon as you can. If something is keeping you, like the rain or an injury, consider visualizing yourself in the same situation with your newfound insights and experience the feelings of a different outcome. The next chance you have to get out there again, you’ll have a new play in mind and in memory.
Choose your values and refocus.
Not to save the best for last, but this is one of the best things a mistake has to offer:: the opportunity either to pivot or refocus. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to refocus after a mistake throws us off. But nothing is more motivating than knowing you’re choosing to play the game. Might as well be the best you can be at it.
Mistakes are like intersections. They prompt you to consider where you are on the map and if it’s where you want to be.
Mistakes help us either get closer to the path we want to be on—by giving us the opportunity to switch direction—or they serve as a refocusing cue.
Once you’ve been asking often or long enough, you’ll find that when you ask yourself if you like what you’re doing, if you want to keep doing it, if learning from the mistakes is worth it—which takes introspection—you’ll almost always say yes, and the ease at finding the positive spin and integrating what you’ve learned will become a seamless pattern of learning and evolving.
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