First and foremost, let’s establish an understanding that success without failure does NOT exist. We’ve seen countless examples from athletes, but perhaps the clearest example comes from the widely considered greatest basketball player to ever play the game - Michael Jordan. “I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” This is coming from a 6-time NBA Champion and 5-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Let that sink in for a moment.
Every athlete, no matter the level of competition, experiences disappointments and failures. It could be missing a game winning shot, experiencing a severe injury, losing your spot on a team, having a fallout with a coach, and the list goes on. The bottom line is if you compete in a sport long enough, adversity will find its way in your path. But, this isn’t something that you should shy away from. In fact, this is YOUR RITE OF PASSAGE because in reality, if achieving your goal was easy everyone would be doing it, right?
It seems effortless when you watch elite athletes compete at the highest levels, but what you’re seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. We see world-class skills, athleticism, and mental toughness, but few of us want to look deeper at the journey towards greatness. Take NBA Champion Stephen Curry, for example, and you’ll find that his path towards the professional ranks wasn’t a road without its speed bumps. His story will likely resonate with the majority of athletes dreaming of becoming the next big thing. At one point, Curry didn’t receive any scholarship offers to compete in college. Coaches and scouts picked apart his game and said he wasn’t strong enough or athletic enough. Sound familiar? These same criticisms followed him into the NBA when he was overlooked by many teams. Steph Curry, who is now a 3-time NBA Champion, 2-time MVP, and the undisputed greatest shooter the game has ever seen, knows what it’s like to face failure. He also knows what it takes to rise above the countless disappointments and challenges.
So, how do elite athletes overcome challenges in what appears to be the most difficult circumstances? It all starts with changing your relationship with disappointment and failure. Keep these tips in mind as you navigate through the challenges that you will inevitably face chasing your dreams:
- Don’t lose sight of your goals: Instead of thinking you “lost” something, instead focus on what you can learn from this experience. Every disappointment brings you one step closer to success.
- It’s OKAY to question yourself: It’s only natural to have moments of uncertainty - especially when things aren’t going your way. Just make sure you remind yourself of WHY you're competing day in and day out. It's for the love of the game, not for the accolades.
- Failure breeds growth: Tough moments are opportunities to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to make them stronger. Regularly checking in with yourself (and being honest) is an effective method for accountability.
- Incorporate a personal mantra: Just because you've failed, it doesn't mean you're a failure. It’s useful to identify a personal mantra as motivation to lift you up when times are tough. Example: “Success is never owned. It is rented, and the rent is due every day.”
- Put in the work: Just like you train your body, you need to train your mind. This could come in many forms, but you weren’t born with the ability to shoot a basketball at an elite level. It took hours of practice and a commitment to excellence. The same goes for how to build your mental resilience muscle.
Building up your level of mental toughness is a choice and one that will benefit you far beyond your sport, but it won’t come easy. When we watch the greatest athletes perform in their respective sports, it’s important to recognize that the biggest difference between a good and great athlete comes down to how they handle adversity. They’ve consciously made a choice to train their mental muscles to rise above the pressures, instead of buckling in those tense moments. You can do the same by making a choice. Want to learn more about how to build mental resilience? Download the Restoic App today to start training like thousands of athletes at the high school, college, and professional levels.