It is not uncommon to hear people only admiring an athlete’s victory, celebrating with them when things go right and leaving them on their own when a challenge presents itself.
More often than not, an athlete is defined by their successes, and rarely by their mistakes. Every single race, every training session, every experience we have comes with a lesson. The faster an athlete learns to identify such lessons, the easier it will become for them to improve. They will improve their times, their adaptation to distances and disciplines, but, most importantly, their experience in terms of getting the best out of race day.
With the appearance of social media, we got used to only witnessing successes and ignoring a road not only paved with hope, discipline and consistency, but also with mistakes, injuries and frustration. We learned to see athletes as super-human. People who never stumble on their way to achieving their goal. The reality, however, is that no matter how great they might be, there will always be a story of an unfinished race, a day when things went wrong or a moment when they doubted themselves.
Behind every single success there are many stories of failure, but there are also stories of people standing back on their feet and learning from their mistakes. Those who have fallen who have become aware. Those who have now mastered the benefits that failure gives you:
Failure keeps your feet on the ground: Dreaming about success is a good and a fun thing to do. But dreaming too much might blur your mind from what is really happening right now. It can take your humility away and your desire to self-improve every day. Realising the road ahead gives you motivation to keep moving forward.
It doesn’t matter if you can run 10km in 35mins, there is always room to improve Recognising your vulnerability makes you stronger rather than weaker.
Failure promotes Change: When you fall, you learn about your mistakes. You might not see it right away, but deep in your subconscious, with each fall, you learn which road is not the right one. Making changes will promote altered neuroplasticity (your ability to learn and develop your brain). It will also take you away from your comfort zone, making you physically and mentally stronger.
It might be beneficial to sit with a coach or Counsellor and discuss the road taken and see when and where you can add a change.
Failure teaches resilience: The more you fall, the more you learn how to stand up again, the more you fail, the more you will learn.
Failure gives perspective: Failure develops the skill of seeing things from different perspectives.
A failed race at one distance may push you into another distance that you are more suited to. A lower leg injury might get you onto the pool more often and develop your swimming beyond your wildest dreams.
So the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated or anxious about not achieving your objective, remember that people rarely get it on the first try. Failure should always be your fuel and what gives you strength. The most important lessons are learned that way. Eventually, discipline shall overcome natural talent. The resilience you show and the consistency you develop are the fuel to achieve your goals and dreams. But most important, being compassionate with yourself is crucial in order to learn what every mistake has to offer you for your future success.