Love the Olympics? Sports are a Metaphor for Life

If you haven’t heard (over the roar from women's gymnastics and swimming), the USA Women’s Field Hockey is doing pretty incredible things in Rio as well. While some may say they are in a big media shadow they are worth mentioning nonetheless. They’ve beaten both Argentina and Australia, the latter team being #3 in the world. Growing up playing field hockey from age 10 through college, I knew that US field hockey was not very successful in international competition; Australia and Europe were powerhouses in the sport. Getting to the Olympics at all was an accomplishment for USA hockey this year, let alone competing and beating the teams they have. When interviewed about their play, Michelle Vittese from Cherry Hill, New Jersey had this to say: “We have this grit, this resilience because we have previously failed, because we’ve previously been in unfavorable positions.” Her statement is spot on.

My former field hockey coach, a former Olympic Goalie, always said that “sports are a metaphor for life.” Sports offer the chance for redemption if you are willing to put in the time, effort, and energy to come back. Aly Raisman and Michael Phelps are trying to do just that. They were both medal winners in London, but are being driven by the fire of redemption in Rio. They want to prove they have what it takes to reach the medal podium for the events that got away in 2012. Team sports offer such lessons in collaboration, interdependence, trust, communication, perseverance, disappointment and success. Individual events require immense concentration, positive self-talk and visualization, strength, courage, determination, and commitment.

Life offers the same chances for redemption as sports, but it isn’t as clear cut with start and end times tied with a bow in a prime time package. Life failures and successes require the same aforementioned skill sets. When is failure at a task, a job, an event, a relationship really final? It’s final if you decide to let it define you. However, if you use the skills involved with resilience, you will be able to rise strong. There are countless real life examples--- athletes, entrepreneurs, career changers, celebrities, and people in your own life who have used failure as a stepping stone and launch pad to their next endeavor.

This is a huge part of what I do when I work with people around failure, rejection and disappointment; we talk about how to redefine what happened to find the key learnings. To understand the full story, not the immediate story of “I failed, therefore my life is over. Everyone hates me. I can never be successful again.” This rising from failure is a three step process that Brené Brown outlines in Rising Strong, but is also available to work through individually or in group at Courage Compass Therapy. As outlined in my blog on Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ failure, resilience from these experiences requires one to go through three processes: The Reckoning, The Rumble, and The Revolution. Briefly, the Reckoning involves getting curious about what emotions we are experiencing; the Rumble involves taking an up close and personal look at what we are telling ourselves about what happened; and the Revolution involves using key learnings to draft a new ending to the story of your life.

While failure, disappointment, mistakes, or rejection are usually never fun or easy, they do not have to be the end point of your journey. They can actually be the beginning of a magnificent emergence into a better version of yourself: one who is stronger, wiser, seasoned and experienced.