Sometimes in life, things don’t go as smoothly or easily as we would like. In fact, the longer I’m on this planet, the more I realized that MOST of the time things end up playing out a little bit differently than we expected. When you come up against a situation where the expectation you had in your mind of how things would go is fighting against what is actually happening in the moment, it can be frustrating, angering, annoying, and utterly disappointing.
The thing that keeps us going during these times is persistence. If not getting it done is not an option, then you will eventually get it done. The key to persistence is that when one door closes you immediately go find another door. That other door isn’t going to magically appear in front of you, wide open with a welcome mat waiting for you to walk on through to the other side. Persistence means when one door closes, you keep walking around and knocking on doors until you find the one that opens up to the outcome you want (or opens up to a different outcome you couldn’t even access through that other door). Don’t keep knocking on the same door waiting for it to open. The quicker you realize and accept the fact that the door you are currently knocking on is not going to open for you, the quicker you are to find the one that will.
“I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.”
-Thomas Edison on inventing the light bulb
If you haven’t yet read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset – you should immediately add it to your reading list. Every coach, parent, athlete … Every human should read this book. Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and her research on motivation and success is the topic of this book. In particular, she speaks about the difference between having a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you believe that success is possible through your effort, strategies, and assistance from others. When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that success is only possible through innate talents; you believe that things like intelligence and personality traits are permanent and unchangeable, therefore if you fail at something, you will always fail at it because it’s fixed. We all have a bit of both mindsets in us (myself included!) in different areas of our lives.
With a fixed mindset, if you fail at a task it means, “I’m a failure” and much of your life is revolved around avoiding that feeling of failing at all costs. You even avoid asking for help because you don’t want to appear as if you don’t already know the answer. You fear the challenge and feel discouraged by failure because your self-worth is tied up in only having a positive result. With the growth mindset, if you fail at a task it means, “I failed”, and you are eager to try again because you know that failure means you’re closer to finding success (versus feeling that you failed once which means you will always fail). You embrace the challenge and know that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you are using the resources available to you to figure out how to be successful. When you have a growth mindset, failure can still suck, but it doesn’t define your existence. Failure or success doesn’t define who you are as a person and by avoiding failure at all costs – we are also inadvertently avoiding success as well.
Perseverance, persistence, and patience are essential for any athletic journey; for any life journey. Just because it doesn’t happen the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Overall people with a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset achieve more because they aren’t focused on avoiding failure they are focused on learning. Remember that the path to success, the path to accomplishment, the path to your goals, RARELY if ever follows a straight line. You will certainly encounter twists and turns and ups and downs along the way and with persistence, each one of those, will get you closer to your destination.