Re-try… downgrade… didn’t get your level…. popped everything!!!! Words every figure skater cringes at hearing. We really are exceptionally hard on ourselves after a bad skate. Even though you think we should know better, adult figure skaters are not exempt from these moments of abject failure.
What is it about an ice skating test or competition that makes it such a do-or-die-failure-is-not-an-option thing? I remember feeling more sense of accomplishment after passing my Tango Romantica than when I finished my college degree. On the other hand, who hasn’t wanted to bawl like a baby after a really bad skate or failing a test? Never mind testing or competing, even if you have a bad practice it kind of ruins your whole day, doesn’t it?
When I was young, there always seemed to be someone who said, “It’s not the end of the world” when you failed a test. Well it sure felt like it. Even now, after living through many grown-up disappointments in the real world, having a bad skate or failing a test still is kind of hard to take.
My friend Matte has a knack for understanding motivation behind people’s emotions, Matte is one of the smartest people I know and unlike some smart people, and her smarts are tempered with love and humility. Her most recent blog is about putting failure in perspective. In her weekly commentary, “outWord” she writes,
“Often our concept of failure is too simple, and we jump to the “F” word quicker than a cat off a hot stove. The equation seems rather straightforward: I want A. I need to do B to accomplish. A. I was unable to complete B. I did not accomplish A. I failed. Now, wait just a minute. Let’s back this up a bit and look at some of the problems with this equation.”
Matte proposes a much more charitable view of ourselves and our apparent failures:
“By all accounts, I have failed many times in one of the goals I set for myself this year, yet I am still working away at it. The methods have changed, the timetable has been adjusted, and my expectations have fluctuated. But I am still on the path (though I floundered several times) and I am happy to say that the end is in sight.”
One point struck me as particularly powerful and something that as figure skaters we probably should include in our emotional first aid kits when on-ice events don’t turn out as we a would like them to:
“When we do fail to accomplish a certain task, it does not mean that we have failed overall or that the goal is now unattainable. It just means that we have hit an obstacle along the way. We probably need to stop and re-evaluate, look at different options, get some wise counsel if we can. As long as we have not reached A, A is still possible. Somehow. Someway.”
So, no matter what’ happens on figure skating test/competition day or practice, or if some ignorant soul passes a snide remark about your so-called lack of talent, I want you to know there are many, many people out there who are awestruck by your dedication and determination. Read Matte’s article and be encouraged!