Updated: Apr 12, 2022
As much as I hate to admit it, as a kid, I was a crier. I was BAD. I cried, I threw helmets, I pouted. While some kids had no problem with failure and moved on like it was nothing, I was one of the many rotten apples who thought sulking in the corner of the dugout after you struck out meant that you "cared" more than the rest of the team.
For years, I struggled with failure. I still do. However, the way I struggle with failure now is far different from how I used to struggle with it. Recently, I had someone ask me, "How do you get over failure?" Being someone who has had to overcome the inability to deal with failure, I want to express some of the ways I have dealt with failing as much as I have. Getting over failure takes time and practice. It is not uncommon to pout as a young kid. The real challenge, however, is changing your mindset throughout the years to use your failures to your advantage.
Lose The Dreams Of Perfection
One of the hardest aspects of baseball is coming to terms with the imperfection that comes with it. Understanding that it is OKAY to not hit .1000 is vital to success. In a game where the best hitters get out 7 times out of 10, there is a good chance that negative thoughts can take over your mind. Think about it: out of the times you go up to the plate, you are going to walk back to the dugout disappointed 7 of those times. Now ask yourself: do you hit better when you think positively or negatively? The answer should be obvious. So the question becomes, how do we keep a positive mindset amidst all of the failure?
The Positive Mindset: Little Victories
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone hit a line drive shot right to someone and jogged back to the dugout kicking themselves for not getting on base. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have seen plenty of players get jammed and still find a hole in the outfield and get equally mad. These scenarios represent the epitome of a negative mindset. While it may not seem like it, there will always be a negative and a positive side to every swing, every pitch, and every play. You will do things right, and you will do things wrong. But what are you focusing on?
Take hitting a line drive right at somebody. The negative-minded baseball player will get mad that he's 0-1 o start off the game, but the positive-minded baseball player will praise himself for the good swing and stick with his approach for the rest of the day, setting himself up for a good day at the plate.
The only way negativity affects us is if we let it. Do we choose to find the silver lining, or are we content with wallowing in our misery? The choice is yours.
Controlling The Controllable
One of the main issues that relentlessly faces humanity is how we perceive the environment around us. Have you ever played a video game with your friends and given them the controller? They ask to play your game, and you reluctantly hand over the sticks and proceed to watch them have absolutely no clue what they are doing. You, being the expert you are, try and coach them through it, but they just can't seem to get the hang of it. Without the controls, you are helpless.
How do you feel while you watch your friend make a fool of himself? My guess is anxious - a feeling of wanting to change the outcome but knowing you are powerless in a frustrating situation. I've been there. It's not a great feeling.
Now imagine yourself tearing the cover off a ball and seeing it to deep center. You watch the centerfielder turn his back in a full sprint. You begin to round first, as you know you have a chance at possibly legging out a triple. Then... all of a sudden, you see the centerfielder has a beat on it. You find yourself trying to make the ball fall in the outfield by sheer willpower. Your stress level is rising and rising until... the centerfielder leaps, falls, and jumps back up, clutching the ball in his glove, unwilling to let go of the ball that just made him the game's hero. You walk back to the dugout, distraught and frustrated at something that isn't even within your control.
So what IS within your control in that scenario? Think about it. You just turned around a 92 mph fastball and sent it right back where it came from. You just hit a scorching line drive because of a swing that probably couldn't have been more perfect. You just worked the count and made the pitcher throw five pitches and probably made him feel a little embarrassed to have his best fastball turned on like that.
But all of these successes were overshadowed in your mind by something that someone else did - something that you couldn't even control.
In baseball, all we can do is focus on what we can control. There is a reason why we only get 3 hits every 10 at bats. There are too many variables for us to hit any better than that, which is why the only thing we can improve is what WE do. Freaking out because our friend sucks at video games won't help solve anything. All we can do is wait for our turn to play and play to the best of our abilities.
The Bigger Picture
To put it bluntly, the only reason we struggle to overcome failure is because we lose sight of why we really play the game. Everybody says they want to succeed, but I'll ask you: how does pouting after failing help you succeed in your next at bat? How will your negative mindset translate to future success?
How you approach failure is a representation of your TRUE purpose in the game. If you truly think that you play baseball to succeed, then you will use your failure to figure out how to succeed in your next opportunity. Once you fail, that opportunity is done. Whether you want to figure out how to win the next at bat or whether you want to pout and draw attention to yourself is up to you. I get that sometimes we can let our emotions get the bet of us. We get emotional when we feel like we have no control over a situation. We get anxious, frustrated, and angry, and end up taking that anger out in ways that we usually end up regretting, which is why focusing on what we CAN control makes for a positive mind. You know what you need to do to succeed - it's just a matter of how disciplined you are to consistently meet the requirements.
Like I said, I used to be a crier. I drew negative attention to myself and I got hung up on the little negative flaws in my game. Nowadays, I approach failure from a much different point of view.
Now, I know why I play baseball. I know if I want to succeed, all my actions must be done for the purpose of succeeding. I view failure through a calm, more contemplative lens. I want to experience success, and failure is a stepping stone to that. Failure provides learning experiences. If it weren't for failing, we would never know what NOT to do in many situations. While obviously training your mind to function this way takes time, it can be done. Sometimes it just takes a good, hard look in the mirror to ask yourself: am I doing everything I can to be successful? The answer may surprise you.
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