Recovering From Mistakes

Watch any sporting event on TV and you'll hear commentators talk about needing to recover from mistakes. Coaches say it. Teammates say it. Parents say it. Athletes say it. It's true that we need to let mistakes go. Yet, so many athletes have difficulty doing this. The concept may be easy but getting there is the hard part. 

Meet one of my pups, Fromm (aka #FrommersVonFancyPants). He LOVES chasing things. Balls, frisbees, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and most importantly his canine sister, Molly (she's not too keen on it). You name it. He'll chase it...all day long. He's an excellent athlete, but just like all of us, he'll occasionally miss catching the frisbee or ball. But here's the kicker: he doesn't care. Of course he tries to catch it every time because that's his "job" (he's a border collie, so anything he does is a "job"). Yet, when he misses it, he doesn't hang his head, quit trying, or lose focus for the next try. He hustles, his tail is wagging, and he gets in position for the next throw. Every time. This dude is focused no matter what. 

I've learned a lot about mindset from my dogs. Watching Fromm enjoy fetch at full capacity has helped me realize ways in which I complicate my own life. I've also learned that even when he makes mistakes, he enjoys what he is doing. I have high standards for myself, as most of you do, too. Letting things go doesn't mean my standards change. It means my standards are important enough to warrant full focus; the mistake isn't worth my time, especially since I can't do anything about it after the fact! Control what you can and let the rest go.

I once heard a story about a professor who held up a glass of water and asked his class how heavy it was. Naturally, the students guessed a variety of weights. The professor then responded, "It doesn't matter how heavy the glass is. It matters how long you hold up the glass." Try it yourself. Holding up a glass of water for 10 seconds is easy. It's not heavy at all. But I guarantee if you try holding it up for an hour, it will get heavy!

Mistakes act in the same way. We all (myself included) hold onto little mistakes. The key is noticing it and then letting them go. That's how you recover from mistakes. Of course you're upset! But don't focus on that. Notice it, feel what you feel, and MOVE ON. Bring your awareness to the moment: the current play, the current shot, the current goal, or current whatever. You weren't trying to make the mistake and can't do anything about it after the fact. Focus on what you have control over, which is the current moment. Channel your inner Frommers Von Fancy Pants!

Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs. 

Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.