It pretty much goes without saying that as human beings we are going to face adversity and many challenges during our journey through life. These challenges can come in many forms, everything from the big goals we set for ourselves to the small and annoying hassles we face during an average day.
It also goes without saying that we are going to question our ability to cope with and overcome these challenges. Some days the smallest unexpected inconvenience like forgetting an umbrella or running out of milk may feel like the end of the world, while other days those big life changing events such as buying a house, having a child, or getting a promotion at work, seem like no big deal.
For the most part we are all born with the same basic abilities to think and problem solve, so what is it about some people that allows them to meet even the most frightening challenges head on? The answer is experience. The human body and brain is an experiential machine. The more we are challenged to overcome adversity and problem solve the better we get at it.
One way to build and hone these abilities is through different types of controlled adversity. One of the best examples of this we can all relate to is sports! Sport and fitness is a great way to challenge ourselves; physically, mentally, and emotionally, while in a controlled environment. There are hundred different sports and life metaphors for a reason! Living in New England we are fortunate enough to have many amazing examples of this. It is easy to watch Tom Brady author a winning drive down the field in the closing seconds of game and say, “wow, how did he do that?” The answer is practice. While most of us will never be able to throw a football the way Tom Brady does (even with a lot of practice) we can all learn to adapt his same mind set when it comes to facing adversity.
Sports teach us many of life’s major learning lessons, the biggest and the most important being that we do not start off being the best! We must log many hours of focused practice to improve our skills. This lesson follows us through life and applies to everything from; physical fitness, nutrition, relationships, school and work habits, even our general outlook on life! These things can all be modified and improved by practice.
The second biggest life lesson that sports teach us is that many times despite our best efforts the outcome of a situation might not go our way. Losing and accepting loss is a fact of sports and competition. Learning to cope with loss is an invaluable aspect of the human learning experience. Winning and success rarely teaches us anything, if we win or succeed it simply means that we prepared for the situation properly, it feels good but we do not take much away from it. Losing and failure teach us to learn from our mistakes so that we can improve so we can do better the next time around. You can’t win em all, but you can learn from every mistake!
The third lesson that sports teach us which bridges the first two lessons is to accept criticism and set our emotions aside so that we are actually able to learn from a loss and improve. If an athlete is too emotionally consumed by the loss of a big game they could miss out on learning a valuable piece of information that could help them do better and possibly win the next time around. Sports teach us to put the past behind us and move on to the next play. This could quite possibly be the most important life lesson we ever learn! Practicing and preparing really hard only to come up short is a very trying experience, and while it may hurt emotionally and physically it is never for naught. These challenges are a necessary part of building our “life immune system” and give us our ability to “shrug off” defeat so that we can bounce back stronger! Most of the best athletes in the history or sports have come so close to victory only to come up short time and time again. But instead of slinking away into the darkness they continue to practice and improve so that when the time comes they are ready to seize their moment in the light.
This brings us to our fourth and final lesson, the winning mind set! One of the unifying factors found in all of the world’s best athletes, top business moguls, creative artists, and good parents, is how they view a challenge. Winning and success is a mindset as much as it is an outcome. If we do not believe we can succeed then our chances for success drop immeasurably. When Tom Brady leads that game winning drive, or when Lebron James hits a game winning shot you never hear them say “we didn’t think we could do it” or “I doubted myself”. Without a positive mindset and belief in success we naturally exude less effort and energy, it is human nature. Without a winning mindset there can never be success.