Failure is inevitable.
A missed lift, a failed attempt, a time cap, a no rep, setbacks and bad training days, whatever you want to call them, they happen. Many of us grew up playing sports, be it baseball, basketball, wrestling, tennis, skiing, so on and so forth. You were taught how to play the game, you established technique and style, but you weren't always taught about the mental game you have to master, first. The one that allows the athlete to let go of errors quickly, to see failure as an opportunity, and to learn to become better.
If you’re like myself, CrossFit wasn’t around when I was younger. I might have dated myself, but for most individuals, we’re all just coming across CrossFit in recent days. The Open, for example, has grown in less than 10 years to more than 500,000 participants worldwide and I promise the buck doesn’t stop here. So what’s different about CrossFit teaching failure as compared to other sports? How can you overcome the mental barriers keeping you from your ultimate performance and potential in the box and during competition? Let’s take a deeper look.
Failures and Errors in CrossFit
Failure is part of the game and so are errors. Winston Churchill once said that “success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” and CrossFit is no exception. Nobody is perfect. Every athlete experiences failure and often it can become a huge mental barrier to our training and way of life. In CrossFit, athletes who cannot cope with their failures failed lifts, and bad training days, will eventually fall victim to this limitation, decreasing performance, enhancing frustration and potentially killing their passion for the sport altogether.
Dwelling on Mistakes - Bad Training Days
Bad training days happen, but they don't have to be as bad as you make them. So what, you failed a PR lift or got capped on your time. So what your hips weren’t to parallel, your MU didn’t have full extension, the arms weren’t completely locked out and the lift was missed. Is it really a bad training day? Or is it a bad five minutes that you milked all day?
CrossFit has taught me this – dwelling and ruminating in my mistakes and my failures will not get my lift, my rep, nor my effort back. But it does make me stronger. It does help me realize that while that moment or that lift or that chance was missed, it doesn’t have to become a distraction for the rest of my training or my competition. So next time you fail, ask yourself, am I going to overcome this, or will it overcome me?
Being in the Moment
You may not be the athlete you are forever. GASP. Yes, I heard your heart sink forever. But guess what? It's real, you're the youngest you'll ever be, right now, today, in this very moment. And if you start treating opportunities to train, lift, and compete, as a gift and treasured opportunity, every single time you step on the floor, you enable yourself to throw frustration and debilitating failure out the door, refusing the cycle of negativity to overcome you. If you celebrate the positive, you'll overcome the negative.
Make a conscious effort to win the workout and not let the workout win you. Sure, you got time capped. Or maybe you no-repped a few. Heck, maybe you scaled down the WOD for safety halfway through. But guess what? You didn’t fail. Take what you learned at that very moment to shape and mold you into an even better version of yourself.
Coach John Wooden on Failure
Okay, I know Coach Wooden was a basketball coach and that CrossFit came long after his time, but the man knew a thing or two about failure that can be directly attributed to a failure in CrossFit and other sports alike.
“A mistake is valuable if you do four things with it: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”
The 4 Step Process To Overcoming Failure
When you recognize that failing doesn’t make you a failure, you give yourself permission to try all sorts of things. You fall, you rise, you make mistakes, you live, you learn. You’re human, not perfect, remember? Sure, there’s going to be a failure or two in your journey, but if you take a moment to recognize your effort and interest, failure will be the reason why you succeed.
Accept failure as part of the process. In CrossFit, and life in general, everyone fails at something, and sometimes they fail hundreds of time. And you know what? That's alright! What you shouldn’t accept? Not trying.
Swallow your pride, put to rest your ego, learn your lesson, and try again.
Learn From Failure
Your journey in CrossFit and in life will not be marked by perfection, but rather the ability to constantly overcome adversities and failure. Failure and frustration lay the foundation for the understandings that will create the new level of living and performance you will eventually enjoy.
Failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy and try again. So why do you act like it's an end all? Do you need to drive your knees out more or extend your hips upward? Breathe in, breathe out, try again. Can't figure out what went wrong? Ask your coach.
Failure can be a comma or a full stop, the choice is yours. Take the lesson, forget the failure, and move onward.
"Those Who Dare To Fail Miserably Can Achieve Greatly"
Failure is inevitable, but sometimes failing and having bad training days can provide us with more clarity, insight, and motivation than good ones. When we recognize that failing is part of the process when we embrace our mistakes and missteps, we allow ourselves to grow and expand into something greater, something better, and something more than we were before. Sure, it may be uncomfortable, but when you get outside of your comfort zone and push the bounds of your potential, your only option is to grow.
Whether it’s a lift you miss, a movement you performed wrong, a misunderstanding of the Metcon, missing class or showing up late, wearing your shorts inside out, maybe it’s important to realize that you’re trying and that trying in the first place will always be better than not trying at all. The very best in the sport didn’t become unstoppable because they didn’t have failures or doubts along the way, but rather, because they continued on despite them. How you do anything is how you do everything.
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