“If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
The saying goes ‘we learn from our mistakes’. Embracing failure is the reason why parents let their children fall down and get backup when they’re learning how to walk. It’s the reason why students re-sit exams, and it’s the reason why drivers bounce back after difficult weekends or even seasons. Hidden in mistakes are the lessons that we need to learn to improve ourselves and our method. Mistakes can be as simple as braking a little too late for one corner on one lap in testing, to a poor qualifying session which can ruin a whole weekend.
One of the hardest tasks a driver or any athlete for that matter must do is to quickly let go of mistakes and move on...next corner, or next session! Unfortunately, many drivers when they make a mistake or error they then punish themselves about it. Remaining fixed on the mistake inevitably leads to frustration and then more mistakes, because focus stays on the last corner (which cannot be changed) and not on the next corner (where opportunities lie in wait). In these cases you have to be aware of ‘self-sabotage’ in your self-talk. Are you obsessing about the mistake and labelling yourself as slow, stupid or just a lousy driver?
Let it go and move on. Put the mistake aside and let it float away from your mind.. this is basic mindfulness that we practice everyday. The only thing to think about regarding a mistake is how it happened technically, so you can avoid repeating it... only focus on how you will prevent the mistake the next time you are in that situation. So important is failure to your eventual success, that many see it as a gift. It’s an opportunity to improve yourself, learn from your mistakes and be the very best you can be. It teaches you resilience and grace and makes you more appreciative of your successes when they come around.
Dealing with emotions.
Dealing with mistakes and failure is not always easy, they can both elicit a very powerful emotional response and as we know, emotion is ten times more powerful than logic... especially after the months and years of hard work that precede it. The following are some approaches that can be used to embrace mistakes and failure.
Develop positive responses to failure - While no-one likes to lose, it’s important to remember that failing is an essential part of the journey. Using failure as an opportunity to learn is a healthy way to deal with emotions that come from defeat... flip the negative emotions into a positive challenge. Every successful driver has faced and overcome hurdles. Look at your sporting heroes, and trace their journey back for inspiration.
Analyse your performance - Learning to embrace failure extends way beyond dealing with emotions; it’s about using the experience to hone your talent. Elite athletes in all sports learn to improve their game through analysing their performance; good and bad. The key thing here is to identify trends in your mistakes not each and every mistake or error.
Recognise the problem that the mistake exposed - Reflection is an important part of post-race analysis. It allows you to understand where you went wrong and the different actions you can take in the future to avoid making the same mistakes.
Think about what you can learn from failure - We all know that perseverance is a trait closely linked to success in all sports. But in its rawest form, this means the ability to carry on, even after many knock backs.Those who have the resilience to do so, often can because they understand that it can take defeat to enjoy the fruits of labour.
Don’t be afraid to fail - In the world of professional sport it takes a brave driver or athlete to take a risk, or leap of faith. Being able to push yourself and face fear head on is one of the greatest ways you can achieve success. Whereas not taking risks is far more risky because performing cautiously will not get you where you want to go.
See problems as opportunities - It goes back to our first point, which is seeing problems as opportunities and challenges. Athletes across many sports will agree that we grow from some of our hardest experiences in competition. It enables us to up our game and recognise our weaknesses, which ultimately we can improve on.
Reflect on your performance - As a final lesson in embracing mistakes and failure, reflection is an important tool. The ability to look back at your performance with honesty, to understand what went well and what didn’t, and allow yourself to see with clarity the strengths and areas for improvement. Even the greatest driver in the world has room for improvement. Adopting the growth mindset that we are all just ‘work in progress’ allows us to appreciate the journey we’re all on.