You may have heard the saying that “success stems from failure.” If this is true, how many of us truly embrace failure as a means to attain success? Probably not many of us.
Failure is generally synonymous with words like “breakdown” and “disappointment.” Those words generally evoke thoughts and feelings of negativity. However, if you redefine what failure means to you, you can start changing how it impacts you. Failure is a mindset. If you change your perspective on what failure means to you, you can view every challenge as a means to achieve mastery.
Think back to the last time you missed a rep or faced a challenge during a WOD or in everyday life. How did you react? What did you say to yourself (either aloud or to yourself)? How did this impact your mood? How did this impact your overall performance? Take a second to think about this.
It’s important to understand that your thoughts do impact your feelings, which in turn, impact your performance. If you considered your missed rep a failure, you were probably also frustrated or disappointed with yourself. In that moment, you may have lost focus on your performance, wasting critical energy on being negative. Instead, by viewing your missed rep as tool for improvement, you can be more efficient. This new tool allows you to feel confident and under control for the next rep. Remaining calm and poised, you can effectively evaluate what you need to correct in order to complete the next rep. Your positive thoughts create a positive emotional reaction, which in turn, positively impact your performance.
I constantly observe and learn from high-level CrossFit competitors and coaches. One day at NorCal CrossFit, I heard Pat Barber touching on the subject of failure as he coached a class on a heavy lifting day. I recently followed up with Pat to gather his thoughts in further detail. He told me, “On heavy days, if you have not failed you have not gone heavy enough, especially if it is a one-rep max day or three-rep max day. You need to find your limits; otherwise you’re probably undershooting yourself.” He went on to reinforce the importance of accepting failure. He commented, “Accepting failure is a huge thing. Being able to accept that and view that failure as a something you can improve is huge.” Just as I do and you should, Barber recognizes the importance of consistently challenging yourself and pushing past your preconceived limits. Not accomplishing the challenges as you’d expect, doesn’t define you as “weak” or “incapable”. You are merely being provided with instant feedback on your current limits. This is great information to help in the process of setting new goals. By continually setting new goals, you will always have a motivation to improve.
The next time you evaluate your performance, remember to view your challenges and obstacles as a means of development and ultimately, mastery. Think back to when you first started — every day was hard. Now, it is probably a little less hard. Like life, CrossFit is full of challenges; that is what draws people to the sport. If you can embrace the challenge of failure by adjusting your perspective and definition, you will be on your way to continuing your growth as a CrossFit athlete.