On Tuesday, I blogged about lessons lawyers can learn from Olympians who win silver and bronze. Since athletes and lawyers hate to lose, what can participants on one of the world's great sporting events teach us about handling and learning from losing? Here's one more thought.
No. 5: Learn the art of reframing. Yes, a loss is a loss. It is toted up forever in the competitor's loss column. There is no getting around that. But, people are 100 percent in control of how we react to a defeat. Losing can become a habit, but only if we let it.
People fail to change a losing trajectory because of the tendency to frame issues in terms of a false dichotomy. Mary C. Gentile writes about this in “Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right.” She references organizational scholar Chris Argyris’ theory of a defensive reasoning, writing that people see things in terms of win/lose, controlling/being controlled, and that makes them blind to new information and others’ way of seeing the situation. She proposes that, instead, we help others view the previous decision as paying dividends, even if those gains don’t take the anticipated form. Reframe from the win/lose point of view — “We did not get what we wanted” — to a more productive perspective: “What did we learn?”
Finally, here’s a thought from Jim Murphy, who trains collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes in multiple sports. His book, “Inner Excellence: Achieve Extraordinary Business Success Through Mental Toughness,” is a must read. On his blog for July 12, 2010, he wrote that he hated to fail, had given his entire life to the pursuit of being a great baseball player and didn’t make it.
What life lesson did he learn? “We fail because we obsess about the future and cannot be present in the moment. In our relentless pursuit we focus so much on achievement that we miss lessons along the way. We’re busy, but we are not growing; accumulating knowledge, but not wisdom. . . . We fail because we fail to learn.”
While gold is a beautiful color, silver and bronze are as well.