We’ve all been there. After hours of playing, grinding, studying we feel ready to go into this next tournament. In fact during warm ups, or the session the night before we can’t be beaten. “This will be the tournament where I get out of pools.” We say to ourselves. But then, after a crushing loss that sends us out of the tournament we are left with a flurry of thoughts and a surging energy. Some of which are hurtful, helpful, and hopeful. This is a devastating moment, but it’s effect’s don’t have to be negative. Let’s take a look at these reactions to better help us identify them in the moment.
Reactions are Relative
Not everyone shares the same reactions after a loss. In fact each variable could probably be broken down into a separate post all together. So for this example let’s make a few assumptions.
- The loss isn’t sparking feelings of depression or apathy, extreme or otherwise.
- You genuinely have been putting in an average or above average amount of practice and effort in the game.
- You’re not a top “out of pools” or top 8 player as described in the story above.
With that out of the way, we can start to unpack what an immediate reaction looks like, the type of energy that comes with it and how we can get it under control.
The Immediate Reaction
To keep this simple we will use the three categories listed above. Hurtful, Helpful, and Hopeful.
These thoughts can be best described as thoughts that don’t pose a question. They are more or less statements that cannot be expanded upon by yourself. Plus, they are typically founded in emotion, and have a validation seeking property to them. In fact, often times they are statements that encourage you to share with others. A few examples can be; “I shouldn’t have lost to that X It/they are trash” “That is an impossible match-up” “That character is broken” “This is why I don’t X” “This game X”.
If these sentiments are shared with others, most of the valuable lessons you can learn from the experience comes from those consoling you. Helping to shield from the disappointment or downtrodden feeling you have after letting yourself down. As a side note, this can also enable more shielding for yourself, and potentially block any good insight being given to you. This form of communication is incredibly short lived. You won’t always have a secondary voice coaching you on your journey and the energy created from this situation, if ever positive, will fade the moment you have come to terms with your results.
Once this ball starts rolling it can seem unstoppable. This is due to the overwhelming negative energy you may be feeling. Embarrassment, inadequacy, insecurity rush in and can dictate how you act and speak.
To prepare for this you often have to have the right mindset going into the tournament. A mix of confidence and humility with an eagerness to learn. However, in the moment it’s up to you to identify what path you’re taking in your brain and refocus it.
Hurtful thoughts cannot produce the answers you need for improvement because they don’t pose any questions. Questions are the key to improvement because they are the force that drives you in search of answers. This is where the helpful thoughts come in.
Helpful thoughts are not always easy to distinguish. They don’t just jump out at you like “Now that I have lost this specific match up, I will now utilize the exact things that I noticed for my improvement.” What can make it even more tricky is that the energy can feel very similar to what occurs along side hurtful thoughts. The same exact feelings we used to describe it earlier are still present, but they have a different outlook to them. Often felt as part of a process and not an end result. This makes the emotion feel…..different, but it’s roots are the same.
A great way to distinguish helpful thoughts is that they are usually directed at yourself. For example; “I lost because I don’t know that match up.” “I lost because I didn’t practice enough.” “I didn’t get very much sleep last night.” You will notice that these thoughts take a more introspective neutral tone. Whereas the hurtful thoughts take a more aggressive/defensive tone pointed outwards. So how do these helpful thoughts……help?
Naturally speaking, being introspective and honestly reflecting on your own ability is the only way to improve. Simply directing the thoughts towards yourself can ignite that flame. These thoughts, mixed with introspection and humility lead to questions that need answers. For example, “I lost because I don’t know that match up.” Leads into, “What could I have done differently?” “How much experience do I have in the match up?” “Is there anyone I know who plays that character?” “When is the next time I will practice the match up?” The answers to these questions create a strategy or a plan.
Now we have identified that we need to practice this match up, and can make arrangements to be better prepared for the next tournament. This is how a helpful thought creates the energy and drive to focus on what went wrong specifically, and execute an improvement strategy.
Helpful thoughts will also act similarly to hurtful thoughts in the fact that you will feel inclined to share them with others. This is still a form of shielding, although shielding is expected when facing a loss. It can feel embarrassing or just dower. However if spoken aloud, people spend less time consoling you, and more time adding to your drive. Without knowing it, you’re enabling them to provide you solutions instead of sympathy. They may be able to help you find a training partner, or encourage you to come to your own conclusions. No matter what they do, the effects are longer lasting because you directed it towards yourself. Ultimately your results are your responsibility not anyone else’s.
Up to this point you will notice a definitive difference between hurtful and helpful thoughts, and you may be able to relate to them in some way. Hopeful thoughts aren’t as black and white. They can be both negative and positive. Sometimes leading to questions and answers, and other times stopping short. An example of a hopeful thought that leans towards helpful would be “If only I practiced this X more”. It’s classified as hopeful because it incorporates both inward and outward thinking. However, a statement like “If he beat him, and then didn’t have to face me I could have made it farther.” leans more towards hurtful. It’s too focused on what could have been, instead of what was. Instead of acting like a shield, hopeful thoughts act more as a mask.
They almost work to satisfy and quell the energy that is being produced. To make you feel as though you did everything you could to prepare, regardless of the results. Gently shifting blame, but in a humble way. These thoughts can be a distraction that lead to an acceptance of your results prematurely. The energy and emotions that come from a loss are pivotal to improvement. You want to live in that discomfort, it will drive you.
There is an incredible energy and feeling that hits a competitor after a loss. Immensely powerful and difficult to describe. So many different emotions hitting you at once. Embarrassment, fear, eagerness, excitement. A rush of motivation, desire, and failure. The best and worst of them all being a feeling that you could have done more.
This spectrum can affect everyone differently. But it’s an energy that should be harnessed and used. Even if you tell yourself about all the practicing you will do, or how serious you plan to take it. It often fades before you can even get home.
The absolute best thing you can do with this energy is identify exactly what kind of thoughts you are having. Before you jump on social media take 10 full minutes to reflect. Ask yourself questions about your experience. How you felt about it, what you can do to prevent that feeling or expand upon it. Take all of the things you are saying and feeling and write them down.
Separate yourself for just a moment, and create a goal oriented plan that you can measure. Use this energy as the push required to hold yourself accountable when it comes to your goal setting. If it’s practice you need, commit to practicing an hour a day or however long you can spare. If it’s match-up knowledge, commit to watching videos daily. Whatever you choose make it specific and achievable. Do what is necessary to avoid feeling that you could have done more.