The serious athlete tends to be a perfectionist. That is, he drives himself to pursue excellence and is quite unhappy whenever he falls short of this goal. In response to his perceived failures he tends to do two things, one helpful and performance enhancing, the other extremely destructive and performance disrupting: The helpful – He redoubles his efforts and works harder; The destructive – He gets really angry and frustrated with his shortcomings.
One of the more difficult things for all of us to do, both in and out of the athletic arena is to forgive ourselves whenever we make mistakes or fail. However, if you have any desire to really be successful, to go as far as humanly possible in your sport, then you had better learn how to handle your screw-ups. You don’t have to like failing and making mistakes. You just have to learn how to manage them in a positive, constructive way. This means that ultimately you have to be able to forgive yourself for them.
Getting down on yourself, frustrated, impatient and angry with your shortcomings is one of the best ways that I know of undermining your motivation, killing your self-confidence and sabotaging your overall development as an athlete and person. Self-directed anger in response to mistakes will insure that you’ll make more of them.
Think how you’d feel about yourself if every time that you screwed up, you heard the following from your coach: “YOU absolutely suck! I can’t believe you missed that. Didn’t you ever learn anything?! You don’t deserve to be starting. I don’t even know how you made this team!” A coach who responds to your mistakes with this kind of impatient negativity will poison your love of the game and leave you feeling awful about yourself. None of us would last very long playing for this kind of a coach.
So why recreate this negative critic inside your head? When you make a mistake or fail, you want a coach to build you up, to be supportive, to be kind and understanding. Simply put, you want a coach to immediately forgive you for your humanness. You’d want to hear things from him like, “That’s OK! Shake it off! You’ll get other chances. You can do this and I believe in you. Take your time. Let it go and refocus!”
So start today to practice the art of self-forgiveness. There’s absolutely no way that you can hope to become a champion without going through a ton of failures and mistakes in your career. Your shortcomings are not the problem that will hold you back from success. Making mistakes and failing are not the problem. The problem that will most prevent you from becoming a champion is how you react to your failures and mistakes. Learn to forgive yourself and then forget them!