WHAT YOU LEARN WHEN YOU LOSE
It's not always about winning. Life will always have its ups and downs. But if you're currently struggling with a disappointment, I'd like to share a different perspective with you. Here are some things that you learn when you lose.
1. It’s about developing a skill. It’s about learning and improving.
In any sport, or any skill-based endeavor, it’s about learning how to do that thing well. Small wins along the way are great because they show physical evidence of your growth. However it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is about developing that skill to it’s highest potential.
Learning and growing is not a linear line upwards. Instead, it may be helpful to think of it as a line with squiggly highs and lows as it slowly increases upwards. In the beginning, you may be doing well, but at some point you will experience some sort of obstacle. This may require that you learn a new skill, or you have may have to change a bad habit. Either way, it takes time to learn this skill and incorporate it into your growing wealth of knowledge. As you overcome the hurdle you end up reaching a “new level” and once again you are back on your way upwards. It feels like you are growing and improving at a steady pace until you encounter yet another obstacle and so the cycle continues.
During those low moments you may find yourself going through periods of self-doubt. Often times I would have thoughts like, I feel like I’m not getting any better. I feel like there’s just so much I don’t know. Will I ever become as good as they are? Take a step back and look at where you started. You’ve come a lot farther than you probably realized. Self-doubt is normal, at times everyone will feel this way. Realize that this is just part of the journey to success and that as long as you keep putting in the time and energy you will only keep getting better.
2. It’s about building a relationship with yourself.
How do you talk to yourself? Are you the kind of person that says terrible things after you lose? What was I thinking? Why did I do that? What is wrong with me? I suck at everything. Stop yourself right there and breathe. What connections are you making about you as a person and the results you achieve? Do you believe that you are deserving of self-worth only when you win? Does losing make you any less of a person? The answer is no.
What would be more helpful to focus on is treating yourself with dignity and respect through the entire process of growth. When you win you congratulate yourself. When you lose you stay connected with your emotions and console yourself. When you are training you learn to train within your limits so you don’t experience injury or burnout. You learn to give yourself a break when you need it. No matter who is there externally for you through the ups and downs, you need to also be there for yourself. Being able to create a kind and healthy relationship is how you will carry yourself throughout other aspects of your life.
3. It’s about learning how to take a loss.
Losing sucks, there’s no getting around that. But losing happens to everyone at some point in time. It’s a fact of life. What differentiates those who ultimately succeed and those who fail are the ones who can stand up back up afterwards.
Losing a game or a match is a temporary state of pain. Dwelling in that loss is taking that pain and making it an identity: a loser. Do not stay there. This is where the real fight begins. That moment that you decide to keep going and try again is a win in of itself. You learn resilience. You learn humility. And probably the most helpful part about losing, it encourages you to learn to go back and reflect on why you lost. It’s time to think about where you can improve.
Also one last note, it’s important to keep your attitude in check when you do lose. It’s ok to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. That is natural. But don’t take it out on your opponent or the people who have been supporting you. Ultimately you are responsible for what happened. If needed, ask for space and give yourself time to process your emotions first. Cry it out, bawl like a baby. Punch a wall (without damaging it). Do what it takes to fully go through the experience. When you are ready it’s time to think practically and figure out what needs to change so that you don’t lose the next time.
4. It’s about discovering who you are.
Sometimes we lose at things because we aren’t good at them. I don’t think I need to add anything to that to make it more obvious. But by trying new things, testing the skills that we do have, we do begin to see ourselves in a new light.
While losing may be a result of an outcome, how we interpret the meaning of that outcome can greatly change how we feel about it. When I tried wrestling for the first time, I wasn’t really that good at it. Even though I hardly won any matches during my first year, I still had fun doing it. Losing didn’t mean that I wasn’t meant to wrestle. To me, losing meant that there was a ton of room for improvement. And it made me excited. I felt the perfect level of challenge and instead of feeling discouraged, I worked even harder.
We learn about who we are through contrast. It’s one way that we can learn what our values are. How can we know what we want if we have never felt the pain of something we didn’t want? If I don’t like the pain of being broke, I know that financial success is really important to me. If I felt the pain of being overweight, then being fit is important to me. The only real danger in this approach is that it may encourage an attitude of always “running away” from pain. Running away from something is like the more desperate and painful version of going towards something because you actually enjoy it. Always think about why you are choosing to engage in something. When your energy is focusing more on heading towards a goal because you genuinely enjoy that process, not only will you have more fun, but you will reach that goal much quicker.
Lastly, losing can also just mean that we have reached a limit. And most likely it’s just a temporary limit. For example if I am trying to run a mile under 7 minutes, I may not be able to do it right away. But by reevaluating that loss, and looking at myself to see what I can do to improve, I can take steps to go towards surpassing that previous limitation. But honestly you won’t know what your true limits are until you actually try. Where there's a will there’s a way. Every loss you have is just challenging you to find another way.
5.It’s about tenacity. Discipline and determination. What are you willing to sacrifice? It’s about becoming stronger (emotionally and physically).
Being able to come back after a loss takes great strength. It definitely takes more strength than just winning all the time. Once you decide to try again, the next question becomes about how. How will you change what you are currently doing to achieve better results? Maybe you will need to spend more time studying. Maybe you need to work out more. Maybe you need to stay after practice and ask your coach for more help. Whatever it is that you need to do, you will notice that it means changing up some part of your routine.
How much of your routine are you willing to change in order to do what it takes to win? How consistent will you be with that change? You may not be able to make all these changes at once, but the ability to make changes and adjust is a sign that you are growing. You are taking responsibility for an outcome and becoming more resilient as a result.
6. It’s about creating memories. It’s about having fun.
Life is merely a collection of moments and experiences. Some of those experiences will result in wins, and some of those will result in losses. Both are inevitable.
No matter what skill you are pursuing, the most important part is to have fun doing it. Does it sound cheesy? Yes. But to help give more clarity you can also think of the opposite. For example, let’s say you are in a knitting contest. You don’t really care about knitting. Knitting is a boring repetitive task that only senile old ladies do (or so you believe). But you have quick hands and you happen to “win” this contest. Are you really winning if you didn’t have fun? It might be a win but it’s also a meaningless win.
But in the opposite case, let’s say you are passionate about race car driving. You spec your car out to its maximum potential. You talk to other people who are into racecar driving too. You geek out about technical details that the average person wouldn’t understand. You take in the full glory of being in the scene with other people who enjoy doing the same thing you do. Even if you lost, you experienced a kind of magic just being here in this scene and it’s something that you would want to do again.
So work hard when you have to, but make sure to enjoy the experience. Life is too short and too unpredictable to only be obsessed with the win.
If you’ve enjoyed this article please share it with someone who may need a bit of encouragement.
If you do end up winning against a much stronger opponent, please don’t let it get to your head. All opponents deserve respect for spending the time to wrestle with you and help you become better. Wrestling is a sport that is very difficult to improve by yourself and this becomes much more apparent the better you become. Your partner will be your most important asset to your journey in becoming the best wrestler you can be.
And if you lose, don’t let it get to your head either. Everyone loses sometimes. It’s ok. The opponent you lost to will inevitably find someone who they will lose to. What will be most helpful is just taking the time to reflect and see what you could have done to change the outcome. What do you need to work on? In what moments could you have done better? Survived longer? Practice improving those areas and then the next time you go against the same opponent see if you do better.
If you have any other suggestions on ways to beat a stronger opponent please leave them in the comment section below as I’m sure other readers will find your suggestions helpful.
An artist at heart, Kelly is a San Jose based entrepreneur with a passion for wrestling. Starting wrestling as a sophomore, Kelly became a Girls' State Champion her Senior year in 2008. Her love for the sport has led her to create Distant Klash, an apparel brand to represent wrestling with fun comic-inspired visuals. Today Kelly is a one-on-one coach and is constantly creating new artwork for her fans.