Bouncing Back After a Loss

In college football, one loss keeps a team out of the National Championship. When an undefeated team loses their first game of the season, they tend to fall apart. My team lost a game this season, and followed it with 2 more losses. I’m hoping they dont extend that to a fourth straight loss this week!

When teams realize it’s too late to be perfect, they often throw in the towel.

Students tend to do the same thing. One bad score, and it becomes difficult to find motivation to keep going. Students revert to syllabus math and trying to get points instead of just playing their best game to learn the content.

Or worse, the give up completely and check out.

Two reasons people tend to give up after their first loss:

  1. The death of a goal.
  2. The validation of their insecurities.

The Death of a Goal:

When you realize that you actually can’t hit what you were aiming at, you suffer an emotional loss and enter mourning. If you get a terrible grade on the wrong assignment, it may be numerically impossible to earn an ‘A’ in the course. Ditto if you think you have no chance of earning a passing grade.

That loss hurts. You had your heart and motivation set on an accomplishment, now it is out of reach. You don’t get another chance. It’s just not going to happen for you. Your life won’t be as good as someone who made it. People slip into this mindset and mourn the loss of a life they wanted.

The Validation of Your Insecurities.

After a loss, all of the players’ insecurities seem to have been proven. A quarterback who thinks he has no “pocket presence” never gets set. A receiver who thinks he can’t catch when matched against a taller defender avoids certain routes. One interception becomes many. One dropped pass becomes many. They underperform for several games, as they begin to believe their internal critics.

Students love to say things like “I’m bad at math.” No you’re not. You just did badly on a test. “I don’t understand symbolism in literature.” Yes you do, you just didn’t have the context for this one.

Both reasons are garbage.

You lost a game. That’s all. Maybe they were better than you. Maybe you didn’t prepare properly. Maybe your personal life got in the way.

We want to believe that we can’t do things.

It gives us permission to not do them without guilt. Ability comes with obligation: if you’re capable you should do things. Inability comes with freedom: if you’re incapable you’re excused.

You’re not a bad student. You just had a setback in the arbitrary game of keeping score. Shake it off and go learn something.

Work hard regardless of the scoreboard.

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