DEALING WITH LOSS
If you want to play your best at any given opportunity, the opportunity is always right there and now. Don’t let the past occupy your present. The past is only helpful if you can learn from your mistakes and capitalise on those lessons.
Everyone reacts differently to losing and everyone at some stage of their life will lose. There is no right way to feel after a tough loss. Loss can be hard. Loss can be emotional and mentally debilitating.
This article wants to focus on how to use loss as a guide. Preparation and positivity are the bedrock to the best version of you and what you’re capable of at the next given opportunity. Experience teaches wisdom and losing is your greatest teacher.
In the post-fight press conference on Saturday 25 September, the second thing Anthony Joshua said in response to the very first question; “We’ll be back again”. Within moments of the reality and finality of the loss, AJ was able to hold the gaze of the journalist and the cameras broadcasting to the world of boxing and deliver a forward-thinking and robust statement of intent. It can’t have been easy to say this, even if words can carry little meaning at times.
Moving forwards from a loss hinges on acceptance. Acceptance has no timeframe and at worst some athletes may question the path they’ve chosen, never coming to terms with the upset. But to help you accept the loss and retain the sense that you are in control, perspective and process are key.
It is vital that you keep your experience of loss in perspective. First of all, failure is not final. In elite-level sport the pressure to win is tantamount to success. It is imperative that an athlete thus retains a sense of self and is validated by other areas of their life beyond fame, money and titles. Remember who your friends are, your family and your team, your hobbies and your other interests. Think of all the people, without whom you wouldn’t be where you are. They are all there for you, with titles or no titles. In AJ’s case, remember to be grateful for the experience (which he was) and acknowledge the point you’ve reached when you can be challenging for world titles. As they say in sport, pressure is a privilege. Furthermore AJ is an icon of professionalism and an inspiration for so many other people in the sport, trying to follow in his footsteps. We can’t all be AJ, but your loss can be put in perspective. The world will keep turning, your team are going nowhere, your gym will still be there tomorrow, the sport remains what it’s always been for you and there is always room for improvement. You just need to review the playback and then decide how best to utilise the experience to your advantage.
“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but in the end it’s the journey that matters”
- Ursula Le Guin
Our process is key to supporting us after a loss. By putting a focus on the process rather than the outcome you will feel more in control of your participation. We don’t always have control over the result of a fight or a match, but we can control how we prepare and how much effort we make. As athletes or elite-level sportspeople, chances are high that we are obsessed with our sport. As such, we are driven by self-mastery and strive for continual improvement. No one needs to remind us what time to wake up, what time to reach the gym and whether doing more is more often than not, a good thing. Reminding yourself of your goals and what you need to do to reach those goals is something that only you control. Trust the process.
AJ went on to say “I don’t look at the opponent, I look at myself and realise where I went wrong”. Ask yourself - am I going to beat myself up and lose twice, or am I going to review the tape, build on the experience, focus on the positives, move onwards and grow from there? A loss is a lesson.