I learned a resilience trick watching Wimbledon that might be really obvious to you, naive even. A commentator was talking about Andy Murray and the skills of a professional tennis professional. In particular, the skill of putting your failures behind you. Each time a tennis pro loses a point, or mis-hits, or betrays himself through some fault… he starts afresh. Each play is for that point only.
Because if you carried that negative chatter forwards into the next point you’d be setting yourself a low standard – either by telling yourself you were worth no more than that last lost point, or by beating yourself up when that energy shoud be channelled into the current play, the unknown future.
Of course, the transferred skill is obvious. If we continue to talk ourselves down then at best we squander the energy we could be applying to today’s challenges. At worst, we convince ourselves we are only as good as our last failure.
The sports pro skill of putting each point behind is one we can learn at the start of each new day.
But sports pros do something else too, something that almost seems to contradict it: they explore their mistakes in intricate detail, looking for lessons. They go back over lost games, missed points and foot faults looking for ways they could have improved.
So perhaps we need to balance two modes of learning, and make conscious choices about which mode we are in.
In one mode, I’ll call it ‘running mode’ we put each experience behind us, moving forwards, living for the moment, taking each challenge on its own merits, right here right now. Fight to win this one, let the past go hang.
And in the other mode, which I’ll call ‘sitting mode’ we reflect, remember, look for the learning, pause on it, recall the details, regret a bit, celebrate a bit.
And the trick is to notice in the moment which mode you need to choose. If you hear your inner chatter criticising yourself, ask yourself “Is this a moment to run or to sit?” And honour your choice.