Overcoming disappointment – May 2020

How do we turn a disappointment around ? 

Scrolling through social media over the past few months got me thinking, how are people coping with the cancellation of events?  Which in turn led to the question; how do we cope with disappointment, injury or perceived failure with relation to an event or competition?

Well, when you put it into perspective, not being able to do an event that you have trained hard for is pretty miserable and disappointing, however there will be more events and we are not Olympians who have trained for 4 years and are now facing the prospect of not realising the end goal.

But it’s all relative right?  The events we train for are our own personal Olympic dreams, it could be an event that has been on the bucket list for a long time and finally we get close to realising it, fighting fit and ready to go and then boom…along comes the email notifying us that it’s been cancelled.

It’s tough, it’s disappointing and pretty much in the same bucket as training hard for an event only to have it not quite panning out the way we had hoped; nutrition issues sabotage the day, bad weather causing race changes, mechanical issues slowing us down, injury meaning we have to pull out and the list goes on.  So how do we pick ourselves up and deal with the disappointment?

It’s sometimes hard to explain or put into words why we feel so dissapointed or why we feel that we have let ourselves down when things don’t go as planned.  We turn over the race events in our mind – did I prepare properly, what could I have done differently, should I have done this, that or the other instead?  These thoughts are often irrational, leading us to being overwhelmed with sadness and a heavy pit lurches in our stomach every time we think about that ‘race’.

What also makes it hard is that we are so often surrounded by like-minded friends who we have trained with for months, a group of awesome mates all rooting for each other and heading into the same event; their races go well and they cross the finish line with a happy war story and as much as we are super proud and happy for them we are bitterly disappointed for ourselves and it can be a struggle to make sense of these polarizing emotions. We all hear the same condolences, “you can’t control what happens on the day, don’t worry next time you’ll smash it”, all words of support and encouragement and truth, all said with sincerity but when we are in that head space it’s hard to believe it.

The same can be said if we have had to pull out of a race due to injury or in circumstances like those of the last few months where events have been cancelled and life has become a little uncertain.  We offer and receive the same words of support and again have to rationalise the doubts that creep in, now was the perfect time, will I be ready next time, will I recover from injury? And this time to compound our concern is the silent acknowledgement that having had to pull out of a race once it could very easily happen again just like that!

So how do we turn the doubts around? How do we turn the disappointment into success?  I think it’s important to take a step back and remind ourselves why we started in the first place, what is it about competing in an event that makes us keep turning up to training, why do we sacrifice time and effort and what do we love about it, not what do others love about it but what do WE love about it on a purely individual level?  What do we gain personally from being part of a sport or a club?  It’s sometimes very easy to get swept along in the busyness of life without stopping to reassess our ‘why’ and I think when we find these answers its easy to wash away the doubts and step right back in…..if that’s your choice.

Of course, it is paramount to go over the events of a race or the things leading into an injury so that we can tweak training plans and volume of work etc, then we have to take that on board in a positive way, harness our newfound knowledge, let go of the past and walk into a new day and a new event, whatever that may be.  We need to remind ourselves of the successes we have had throughout our lifetime and in other circumstances.  One ‘failure’ or ‘disappointment’ does not define our ability for success and if we reframe it we can learn from it and be motivated by the experience.

If an event has been cancelled, don’t let go of the dream, just adjust to a new time frame, a new set of circumstances and keep moving forward. Your time will come and so will your silver lining.

Keely x

Click the link below for some interesting reading on mind maps and emotional mastery by Adam Sicinski