I hate losing. Losing hurts. The level of pain you feel from losing may vary depending on how important the thing was you lost. For some, losing doesn’t hurt at all. For others it can be devastating. When we lose something, it has a way of telling the world what we really value in life – what matters most. If it didn’t cost you much, then it may not even bother you. On the other hand, if it’s really important to you, it may be months or even years before the pain subsides and you get over it. Inevitably, we all experience loss at some point in our lives. Nobody can avoid it. Winning and being successful is fun but losing has the potential to teach us and prepare us for life much better than winning can. In all my years of being involved in athletics, I have learned more lessons from losing than winning. Don’t get me wrong though. I love to win and the high that comes from it. I’m not saying losing is good. As a coach, you need to win or else you won’t keep you job. I want to offer you a not so popular perspective on losing. Instead of seeing it negatively, view it from a more positive attitude of ‘What can I learn from this loss?’ I believe if you can do that, it will make you a stronger and more resilient person. Here are three lessons I believe we can learn from our losses:
Perspective – We have a natural tendency to take things for granted. When we begin to take things for granted, we have unknowingly lost perspective on what really matters and how important something is. I will never forget losing my Dad to cancer in 2011. The very first thing that came to my mind while seated next to his bed when he passed was all the times I took him for granted. I realized that day I really didn’t understand how precious life was or how short it is. Losing my Dad taught me to value and appreciate life and my closest relationships on a whole new level. Though it deeply hurt me, it allowed me to adjust my perspective on what really matters most in life.
Priorities – the results you get from any endeavor come from what you have made a priority. If you have a bad marriage, you have neglected that relationship. It has not been a priority. If you are unhealthy, overweight, and lack energy, you have chosen to sacrifice your health – you have not made it a priority. If your house is falling apart, you have not made the upkeep a priority. It will cost you. Misplaced priorities over time always come with a price. Oftentimes, losing is that price. The longer you neglect something, the higher the price you will pay to get it back and depending on what it is and how long you have not cared for it, you may never get it back. Losing has a way of getting our attention to force us to evaluate our priorities, to change our direction and correct our course. Just like a ship adjusts its sails in a stormy sea to get to safety, so you can adjust your priorities to save what you are on the verge of losing. It is never too late to get your priorities in line.
Pain – one of the hardest things we can endure as a human is pain. There is physical pain and there is emotional or mental pain. We all process different types of pain differently and respond to various types of pain in many ways. What doesn’t really bother one person can devastate another. What debilitates one can motivate another. What someone can get over quickly, may take another person years to overcome. Pain however can have a positive purpose if we let it. Two of the greatest lessons from pain I ever learned were when I broke my leg playing football in middle school and when my parents divorced when I was seven. One was physical and the other emotional/relational. One healed in three months, the other took twenty years. With my broken leg, I learned to never quit or give up. When life knocks you down, get back up. With my parents divorce, I learned as I grew older how important family is. The very thing that should have destroyed me, made me who I am. Today, one of my greatest passions is my family. The lesson with my broken leg was quick, my parents divorce took decades. No matter how long it took, I still value the lessons.
In closing, we can learn so much from our losses. Are you currently going through a loss? Has it been months, years or decades? Is the pain still there? Have you made adjustments? Are you learning from it? I encourage you don’t run from the teacher. Learn the lesson and take the test. Oh, and don’t worry. If you fail the test, you will get to take it again! Why? Because you didn’t learn the lesson. My advice to you…learn the lesson!