“You are a sore loser!” is a statement I was told a few times when I was younger. I played tennis and basketball in high school and a lot of games (of all kinds) with my friends for years. Since I can remember, I was a competitor. Whether it was academics, athletics, board games, school fundraisers, or some other activity for which there were winners and not-winners, I wanted to be on top.
Most time, though, I was not. I didn’t have the mental or physical skills to be the MVP of the athletics I was part of. Of course, a person can’t win every board game or card game they play with friends. And academically, I was in the top 10 of my class, but I was #10, not valedictorian.
The reason I got the “sore loser” comment was because I would get so frustrated or upset when I lost. At that time, I was never taught anything different. I never had a mentor who took me under his or her wing and taught me the benefits or realities of losing or a perspective of learning from challenges or setbacks.
Later in life, I learned a much healthier mindset regarding those things, and even though I still feel those twinges of frustration, I am better equipped to deal with them emotionally, and I have some clarity in where my emotions stem from.
Your Experiences With Failing
Have you ever experienced a competitive loss or some other situation you deemed as a personal failure?
How did it make you feel? Did you decide to give up on that skill or task? Did you feel negative emotions taking over… frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness or apathy?
For me, when people would call me a sore loser, it made me feel worse than I was already feeling from the loss. So I didn’t want to continue making that impression. Also, I didn’t want to continue feeling the weight of the heavy losses, but I was also not willing to stop playing, because I loved the game. I had to find a way to play and not let the losses drive me crazy.
Winning the Losing Game
I played tennis last Saturday with my tennis buddy, Barry. He’s from Scotland, so I get to enjoy playing the game I love while also enjoying his fun accent. Barry is more skilled at tennis than I am, so I’ve never left the court a victor over him, but there are times I play at the top of my game, which is necessary to even compete with him.
Though I’ve never won, most of the time, I leave the courts filled with joy. I also feel the aches and pains from playing hard, but mostly joy.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize and it is related to everything I do, not just tennis. I’d be willing to bet you can relate to this. When I perform badly and I lose, it is the worst feeling. When I play badly and I win, it feels okay, but the win doesn’t fill me with joy, because I know I performed poorly. When I play really well and I lose, I am not upset at all. In fact, I’m very happy with my performance. And when I play well and I win, well that’s when all of the stars align and I have a temporary glimpse of what it must feel like to be a professional in that activity – a person who is considered on of the best in the world.
The positive or negative feelings that follow my performance are not related to my winning or losing. They are related to how I play the game.
It’s like when you play a video game and you eventually lose the game and have to start again, but while playing you got to the highest level you had ever gotten to up to that point. It sucks the game is over – that you finally lost, but overall, you still feel positive about it, because you made great gains.
Ways to Feel Good Whether You Win or Lose
No matter what goal you are going for… to win an athletic event, to get an A on the test or project, to outperform your peers or coworkers, to have your biggest sales week yet, to grow your savings account to a certain level, to lose 10 pounds or any other objective, you will PERFORM better and FEEL better if you keep these things in mind.
- Be aware of your perspective. It is much healthier for our rating of the outcome to be more closely related to our effort and performance than the result. Don’t allow the outcome to determine your feelings. Even if you do not get the outcome you desire, you can choose to focus on the lessons you learned, the little wins along the way, and the parts of the journey you enjoyed.
- Give your all every time. You do not control the results no matter how hard you work, how much you want a particular result, or how good you are. You impact the results, not control them. What you do control is yourself. You control your effort. Your attitude. How much you prepare, build your skills, and reach out for help when you need it. As long as you give it everything you’ve got, you don’t need to feel bad about the outcome. You can look back knowing you did everything you could and that is all anyone could ever ask of you.
- Celebrate others’ successes and learn from others. If it was a competitive event you participated in, and you were not the victor, than someone else was. Rather than focusing on your loss, try focusing on the other person’s win. Congratulate them. Then, think about how the game or match went, and write down ideas for improving your next match. Did they expose any weaknesses you could improve? Did they have a particular strength you struggled with defending? Did they use a technique you hadn’t seen before? Any loss doesn’t have to be a total loss. You can learn from any setback, making it a small win.
Using these strategies helps you perform and feel better. Being someone who is focused on what you can win from the loss rather than how much it sucks to have lost, will also lead to a higher level of respect from others who witness your behavior.
It shows a much healthier mindset to celebrate and learn from your competitors and be content with the fact that you gave it all you could, than to be upset that you didn’t win.
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Until next time, stay awesome!