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We have all been challenged by an athletic disappointment. Those moments when you wish you could rewind time and do it over: A dropped pass, a missed free throw, a bad start in the 100M, a mental mistake. The list is endless. What do you feel when you are disappointed? An increase in stress, anger, frustration and irritation. That is why these disappointing experiences are difficult to let go. The mental tape in our head keeps coming back to the mistake over and over. Understanding the brain processes after making a mistake is vital to understanding WHY the tape plays on repeat. There is a part of the brain called the limbic system, which is our emotional brain. It is the voice in your head saying, “You should have, you could have, you didn’t…”. The limbic brain activates the emotions, which makes the experience hypersensitive or very real in your mind. In addition, you develop a narrow tunnel vision in the moment, which heightens your critical voice. This is a slippery mental slope because if you do not catch this process, a negative mental tape will play long and hard in your mind.
Disappointment and Mindfulness
Dr. Arnie Kozak wrote an article called The Anatomy of Letting Go in which he breaks down how to process disappointment. In a nutshell, handling mistakes are all about perspective. How do you attain a positive perspective? Through mindful awareness. Dr. Kozak states, “Mindfulness re-orients us to the present and shifts perspective to a broader frame. While the loss may be real; it’s importance is over exaggerated. Mindfulness helps us to revise and revalue.”
We like to use the acronym W.I.N. as a means to handle disappointment.
What’s Important Now
Here is the step by step process:
1. Recognize your disappointment and become aware that strong emotions can take over
2. Take a deep breath
3. Ask in your mind W.I.N-What’s Important Now?
4. Redirect your mind to an action step
5. Gain perspective and know this moment will pass.