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Why I failed
1) I didn’t set specific goals
I’ve always thought I was the goal setting type of person. I had big dreams of what my life could be like and had a good idea of where I wanted to end up.
All through my athletic career, I thrived on being the “all-star” player. It was the main thing I cared about. I loved being one of the best and sought it out wherever I could. Luckily, being a star player was something that always came easily. Being tall, jumping high and hitting hard never took much work. With these simple traits, you can actually make it fairly far in volleyball. That is until you get onto a team full of players who are ALL tall, high jumpers, and hard hitters. Just like that, you’ve become the average. Being the star player is now going to take some extra work. What are you going to do in order to separate yourself from the competition?
My goals were based on the idea of being the star on my team — which don’t get me wrong, it’s was an admirable goal. But how was I supposed to get there? It was no longer going to be easy like before. Where I went wrong is that I set a specific goal based on an end result, but didn’t focus on the path to get me there. More on that later.
2) Too much pressure
This one comes back to something I mentioned previously — I sought out validation through being one of the elite. Simply put, if I wasn’t playing well in games, it meant I wasn’t living up to the expectations.
But whose expectations was I falling short of?
Well, in my mind, I was failing my parents, my teammates, my coach, my friends, my girlfriend. With every mistake, it seemed as though I was not living up to the image they perceived of me. And to a certain extent, yes, I did sometimes let down other people. But the amount to which they cared about my failures is nothing in comparison to how harshly I judged myself.
We are all our own worst critics. The sooner we recognize this, the faster we can learn to avoid the trap of applying pressure when there is no need.
3) Not enough pressure
Too much pressure can cause anxiety, frustration, and poor performance. But on the flip side, a lack of pressure can be just as damaging. As humans, we enjoy comfort. It’s only natural to seek out routine and stick with the status quo. Making a change in our lives is difficult and it takes consistent effort. We enjoy doing things with a predictable outcome — it’s the same reason we choose to watch a movie we’ve seen before over a movie we have never heard of.
For me, I would only apply pressure in extremes. I would get so worried about not performing well or letting people down that it would cause me to run away and hide from change. So instead I would go to a position of complacency. I would rather be content with my predictable position than go through discomfort. Quite simply I settled…
4) I settled
By the time I got into my third year of university, I had chosen to settle. The guys above me were simply too good. There was no way I could beat them out, so why even bother? They will be graduating after this season, I might as well just buy my time and be a starter next season.
“Yes, they are better than me. For now…”
I wish that was my mindset, but it wasn’t. As far as I was concerned, the guy ahead of me was impossible to beat out. He was the team captain and arguably one of the best players in the country. Even if I somehow managed to play better than him, I could never fill his shoes as a leader. It’s painful to look back on this mindset now, but I regret to inform you that it was these sort of invisible scripts that were my greatest downfall. I already created a story in my mind before it even happened.
5) I let my circumstances discourage or distract me
We all suffer from the ill-timed and seemingly unfair obstacles that cross our paths. To think that your problems are any more important than some else’s is simply selfish.
“Boldness is acting anyway, even though you understand the negative and the reality of your obstacle.” — Ryan Holiday: The Obstacle is the Way
Whether it was injuries or what I thought were poor coaching decisions, I let my own problems affect my growth. I saw my issues as more important and ultimately expected special treatment because of them.
“It wasn’t my fault I got injured!”
“Coach should have started me tonight!”
I let these kinds of thoughts take over. I let them dictate the way in which I choose to take action. Instead of accepting my injuries and pushing for a faster recovery, I used them as crutches to lean on when I wasn’t a starter. Instead of proving my coach wrong, I accepted my fate.
6) I made excuses
Making excuses in some ways ties into my last mistake. But I would like to mention one thing on the matter.
When we say “I don’t have time”, what we are really saying is “it’s not a priority”. So next time you are complaining about doing something, don’t say that you simply don’t have the time. Plain and simple, tell yourself that it just isn’t a priority. You will be amazed at how quickly your mentality will change. The things that truly matter will get done and time will be allocated for what needs to get done.
7) I didn’t properly channel my emotions
This was a big one for me and it’s something I still struggle with today. When I say emotions, I am mainly referring to what I would simply label as the Three F’s: Fear, Frustration, and Focus.
I’m typically regarded to as a fairly calm person. In pretty much all things I do, especially sports, I never lose my cool. I liken to myself as a well-tempered person, who is slow to anger. I would certainly show emotion on the court, but almost never in a negative or damaging way.
However, when it comes to these three F’s, I am all over the map.
In pressure moments, I would let fear get the best of me. In games, I would let my mind run wild on all the possible ways in which I could screw things up. I would constantly battle in my own head with negative ideas that all revolved around letting other people down. After the fact, I would get so frustrated with myself for my unnecessary fear that I would rather just avoid high-pressure situations. I never got comfortable with them. Ultimately, I never had the focus required to handle those situations. Instead of just thinking about the task in front of me, I would be thinking about 4 points ahead when I may, or may not, have to serve with the game on the line.
—Click to Read Part 3: What I Would Do Differently (4 Minute Read)