As a coach, and overall extroverted, annoying, eternally optimistic person, I have the great benefit of meeting people from all walks of life and all levels of ability. Something that helps me to form my opinion of a person, right or wrong, is when I get to see them handle a setback, failure or defeat. What do you do when life just doesn't work out? Do you recoil and lick your wounds? Do you blame? Do you look for external or internal causalities? Or do you evaluate the situation and decide that you just need to get better, study more, train harder? Or, as a great little fish once said, do you decide to "Just keep swimming....."
Defeat is what defines us. It is what fosters growth. Today however, we are no longer looking at defeat as the natural progression into success. Too often blame is passed, complaints are filed, or parents/spouses/friends are quick to bolster a failure by layering on the "its not your fault" icing. You know what.... if you lose, lose. Get over it fast and learn something from it. I illustrate this point with a quick quote and a story.
"The trouble with most people is that they would rather be ruined by praise, than saved by criticism."
- Norman Vincent Peale
This past weekend I was a judge for a Crossfit Competition. I judged the performance of a handful of athletes, but one in particular illustrates the potential for redefining defeat as a learning opportunity.We will call her Jena - Because that's her name. She entered a competition when it was announced that the top four female athletes would compete in the final event for the overall top honor. She ended the first two heats, heading into the finals in 4th place. However, the standard was changed to only the top three athletes making the finals because of lower than expected female turnout for the event. What were Jena's options. Cry, stomp, complain, recoil, leave, quit and run. What would you have done? Well here is what Jena did. I spoke to her and her attitude was exactly what I think everyone's should be. No mention at all of the competition rules change, the host facility, the other competitors..... none. She said, "Well I know what I need to work on for next time." Would you have reacted the same way? Really- be honest with yourself? Not only was that her attitude, but as I was judging the finals events I looked out into the crowd and she was standing right near the front cheering on the competitors who made the top three. Life is a constant barrage of choices. They shape who we are and will be. Looking outward with the intention of transferring blame does nothing at all to aid in your becoming the best you can be. Taking Jena's approach of accepting the situation, learning from it, formulating a plan to avoid it next time and then smiling in the front row cheering on others seems like a better option. This latter approach, to me, is truly primal.
As a primal convert I will always try to relate my post back to the primal benefits. The benefit of redefining defeat is that it broadens our experiences and allows us to gain skills. What if our ancestors just gave up after not being able to run down a mammoth? Oh my, we may have never ended up with Twitter or Pinterest if those guys gave up and said "uh... too hard... not fair.... furry elephant fast." Instead, they said "uh... too hard... must get faster.... with sharp stick." Are you sharpening a stick or giving up on dinner?