Imagine a sports movie. You are the Rocky Balboa, the Sylvester Stallone, the down-on his luck, underdog who is about to write himself (or herself) into the history books. You’ve been training for months, spending countless hours harnessing your skills, but in the end when the referee blows the whistle, you’ve lost and all of your hard work has amounted to nothing.
“Losing can be hard” said multi-season athlete Emily Kobayashi, “but it’s not all bad” she elaborated, simply stating that “you learn more” from losing than you ever do from winning. The most heart-breaking of losses and hardships actually help athletes strive further, practice harder and achieve greater. This challenge was recreated by the University of Paris in a study in which sixty-two participants completed a basic basketball dribbling trials. Forty-two of them received negative feedback and twenty of them, neutral feedback. When asked to repeat the trial, the negative feedback group on average greatly improved its scores, while the group that received neutral feedback scored only slightly better.
This owes to a concept referred to as “psychological resilience”, which is an individual’s ability to cope with stress and adversity. “You don’t want to have a negative mindset – you want to have the best possible attitude going into the game – having a negative attitude can only make you do worse” said IASAS soccer participant Johnny McArtor. This was also shown in the University of Paris study, where out of the forty-two participants who received negative feedback, sixteen of them responded pessimistically, leading to scores slightly below their previous performance. In comparison, the twenty-six participants who responded optimistically drastically improved their previous performances because they were both less anxious and more confident than their pessimistic counterparts.
As the old saying goes, “no pain, no gain”, so when faced with a heart-breaking loss or a general misfortune, make the best out of it and learn from the experience.