The real test of your good attitude will not happen on a good practice day. It will be exposed and tested on a bad practice day.
When you experience a ‘bad’ practice (i.e. failure to produce expected results) that is the best opportunity to examine the factors that set up those disappointing results and learn from them.
What factors do you have control over? List them.
Of these, which can you make specific, measurable improvements for?
What factors do you have no control over? List them.
Of these, in what ways can you reduce your exposure to, or prepare better for them?
Failures can be friends… when you handle them as valuable information in your pursuit of personal improvement. Failures are as least as important as successes in showing you what will be needed for your ultimate achievements.
You need to question your character only if you experience repeated failure in the exact same way because you made no effort to examine your previous failures, made no effort to improve some detail in order to prevent that failure again. If you attempted some improvement but still didn’t get it right, failure is the feedback to help you refine your approach. Don’t give up. Study the problem, and get some coaching assistance to help you learn from it, if needed.
When you fail consider the nature of it:
- What might be some problems in your physical condition?
- What might be some problems in your attention?
- What might be some problems in your expectations for how training and improvement works?
Likewise, treat success as a source of important information for improvement:
- What factors did you correctly exercise control over?
- How can you protect those and replicate those next time?
- What external conditions went in your favor?
- How can you access those conditions more often?
This is a feature of a good attitude: treating results – the good and the bad ones – as information that will help me plan better and follow my improvement process better.
It goes with the saying said in many different ways, “Success is not in never falling down, but in getting back up again each time.”
Granted, we hope success also means we learn how to fall down less often too!
Also, be aware of the attitude you keep toward your Self – toward your own person, toward your own body and brain. This is often revealed in your ‘self-talk’ language, especially in those moments of failure.
How do you treat yourself when things are not going well? Do you speak to yourself with encouragement, as with a good friend, or with disdain, as toward someone you despise? Is your body your collaborator for great things, or your slave who tries to resists your will at each step? This self-talk reveals a lot about what you believe, about how unified you really are inside.
In Total Immersion swimming we operate with the understanding that, in healthiest natural state, our brains and our bodies want to perform at their highest potential. We don’t need to fight against the body to get there, we need to cooperate with it. We can make a strong scientific case that this is actually where a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction come from (in a biological and psychological sense, at least). When failure comes, it is not because the brain and body are lazy or stupid. It is because the signals have been misread or neglected. It is because the internal systems are not working together well. The brain and body are not at fault – the pilot just needs keep working on her skills for collecting and reading the feedback in order to make better executive decisions. A well piloted vessel accomplishes great things and is fun to ride in too.
When you experience failure the next time, consider what you can learn from that situation, rather than creating an emotional storm of self-condemnation (if you struggle with that). In what ways can you learn to work in better unity with your own internal systems?
And to that end, in what ways do you need to gain better understanding of how those internal systems work to achieve highest performance? It’s a good idea to assume there is much more to learn about how this brain and body works. Everyone, even the experts are still just scratching the surface of knowledge about this amazing body we live in.
You may be pursuing higher fitness and higher mental control in order to reach a big achievement goal. But consider how much your attitude – in hardship, in failure and in success – needs to be developed right along with fitness and mental control. I think many will agree that you can only reach your highest physical performance when your mind, body and heart (attitude) are in peaceful cooperation and are developing together.