“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default. A failure should never bring you down, but should challenge you to be better.” – J.K. Rowling
Did you feel that? The little jump in your heartbeat when you read that quote? How many of you immediately thought about something challenging you recently went through in your life? Did you succeed or did you fail? If you failed, how did you handle it? How did you react to it? What did you do about it? These are things that we should explore because they affect everything we do in our lives.
Inside our training facility, on any given day, the physical aspect of training takes a backseat to the psychological components that underlie the training objective or evolution. It’s a concept I discuss frequently because after all, developing strength & conditioning is easy, until it becomes not so easy. When that happens, we stop thinking about the weight or movement and our focus centers around the truth of the matter; all physical actions affect a person’s psychology. No matter how detailed I describe how the objective will feel to an individual, until they experience the reality in the face of failure, they will not know how they will respond given a particular physical stimulus.
This applies to everything we do in our life when things go wrong. Have you ever been fired before? Did you take responsibility for your actions? Did you blame someone else? When was the last time something went wrong in your life? How you react to these situations can help you or destroy your ability to succeed in life.
So what does training at Wolf Den Strength have to do with how you react to failure in life?
First, we must accept that the mind is not separate from the body. What and how we think becomes physically manifested though our bodies. Simple enough to understand right? Not so simple actually. Truly sustainable health & fitness takes fortitude and discipline. Muscle doesn’t get created by treadmilling yourself to China and fat doesn’t go away without eating a properly balanced diet of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. In fact, constructing a healthy and fit body requires us to build lean muscle and condition our cardiovascular system to become more efficient. The term build is key to understand here. Over time, we build a person up by creating difficult but attainable objectives to meet, all the while requiring them to ramp up their intensity. What’s so difficult about that? Here’s where it gets dicey.
More often than not, EGO gets in the way of one’s success. Ego is a nasty little bugger. Read on.
During any given physical evolution or objective, there is a point in which we question whether or not we would be able to continue. Maybe it’s because we get tired. Maybe because we feel we can’t breathe. Maybe we just hate what we’re doing at the time and want to give in. Growth happens when we are challenged. But we don’t always win. When we don’t win, we have some choices in how we react to the failure staring back at us.
The following are three common reactions in response to failure:
When faced with failure, we often deny the very existence of the failure itself. We blame other things or other people for our own mistakes and shortcomings. In essence, we fail to acknowledge the truth that we made our bed and we are the ones who must lie in it.
Chasing the Loss.
Some deal with failure by engaging in even riskier behavior to try to erase the failure to begin with. An example often used in gambling. You lose small so you bet bigger in the hopes to erase the smaller loss by winning an even bigger reward. Chase-loss is a failure to process the emotional consequences of the loss itself.
This is the most relevant for this discussion. With hedonic editing we convince ourselves that the failure doesn’t matter and find ways to reinterpret our failures as successes. Some might call this rationalization except with hedonic motivation, our ego tries to save face by replacing our failure with some other sense of accomplishment. The quintessential term for this is making excuses.
Getting back to the training environment. Being presented with a challenging objective means that you will have to embrace the fact that you will have to suffer a little. In the beginning of one’s training, the suffering is brief. As you get stronger and more conditioned, the suffering gets a little harder and a little longer. It is how our bodies adapt to physical stimulus. Basically, it surmises the cliché, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Except that most people really have no idea what that means or how that truly feels. Remember why you joined in the first place? Yeah…you didn’t think you would have to work so hard or have your ego exposed. Tell your ego to shut up and embrace the discomfort. Learn to differentiate your hedonistic side from the truth of your reality. Embracing your own discomfort will serve as a catalyst to prevent you from returning to the slippery slope and will serve to strengthen the engagement toward the end goal.
How do we change the landscape and learn to use failure for success? Follow these 3 principles:
Don’t be afraid to fail
There is a big difference between trying something and failing at something. I tell members all the time that I am the first in line when it comes to failing. I fail all the time. Truth be told I hate it. But I don’t make excuses for it either. Either I lift the weight successfully or not. Either I beat my previous time or not. Either I succeed or I fail every time. But it is never for the lack of intensity. When faced with a physical or mental challenge, failure is commonplace. Don’t just hope for the best. Do your best every single time in the face of the challenge. Every member that embraces this philosophy begins to transform the way they think, the way they process information, and the way they live their personal lives. The gym experience becomes transformative.
Practice Failing in a Safe Place
One of the great benefits of training is that it is an artificial environment. You won’t lose your job or get a divorce because you failed in the gym. It becomes a safe place to experiment with your boundaries. Let each objective represent a new opportunity to face difficulties and overcome them. Trust in the process and accept that suffering is part of the gift that you have been given to be able to better yourself. Millions of people aren’t as fortunate as you are to be given an opportunity to live a better life. Earn the gift you have been given.
Know when you have failed
The most important principle is the hardest to admit. In the face of failure, do not replace it with your rationalizations. Don’t say things like, “Well I showed up today and that’s better than nothing” or “At least I tried”. These are empty words that says you can’t admit your failure and further solidifies the hedonic bubble surrounding you. Admitting you have failed allows you to do these three things:
- The ability to turn it into something successful
- Allows you to be open to feedback
- Diminishes becoming emotional which interferes with your personal growth and allows you to clearly see the costs and benefits
The gym can be so much more than a collection of steel, rubber, and sweat. It can be a place of growth and enrichment. A place of support and truth. A place to burn down pre-conceived ideas of self-limitation. A place to learn to succeed by embracing that resiliency is built through “consistent mindful effort” and sacrifice.
Wolf Den Strength is always looking for like-minded individuals that embrace the need to be better. It needn’t matter your present condition for it holds no weight in the overall goal. What matters is that you are ready to change and that you are willing to work hard for it. The struggle is real. Embrace it and join us @ www.wolfdensc.com.
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Bibby, Peter A. “Loss-Chasing, Alexithymia, and Impulsivity in a Gambling Task: Alexithymia as a Precursor to Loss-Chasing Behavior When Gambling.” Frontiers in Psychology 7 (2016): 3. PMC. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.
Harford, Tim. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Print.