“Why didn’t I do better?” “I should have done this instead of that.” “…not good enough.” “Why am I even doing this?” Chances are, if you compete, you have said something along these lines to yourself. The more invested you are in competition the higher the stakes feel, so the harder you are on yourself. Perfectionism, imposter syndrome, fear of failure… these thought patterns can weave their way into our jiu jitsu journey where they have no right to be. They can wear us down, make us doubt ourselves, drain us, and affect our ability to enjoy training, especially when we work hard and still lose.
“People say that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. But when you lose, it matters, and it hurts” (Lanny Bassham, 2011). Loss is a part of life, and it’s a necessity in sport. No one likes to lose. However without experiencing that process, it’s hard to fully understand our limits, to realize what it takes to pick yourself apart, analyze the pieces, and put yourself back together. So how do we keep the losses from wearing us down? It may not be the most attractive answer, but I’ve come to one conclusion: a growth mindset must be prioritized above all else. This way of thinking t focuses on the hopes of the future, with a solid connection to why you started this journey in the first place.
What happens when we lose? The first thing is likely feeling disappointed (and exhausted). Maybe some embarrassment, maybe sadness, or even anger. We may want to blame our opponent for something, or the ref for making a bad call. We may attack ourselves and degrade our skills in our head. There is a period of frustration. Then… hopefully, a period of analysis. What went wrong, where were the mistakes made? Do we fully understand what led us to that result? What alter in our training, to prevent that result from occurring again? It’s not easy, a lot of people hate watching themselves roll, hate reliving what they see as a “failure,” but this is where the soil to grow is the richest. In jiu jitsu we love to say, trust the process, but what does that really mean?
Trusting the process is not a mindless belief that if you keep showing up you’ll get to where you want to be; it is the belief that if you put in the work, the process itself will be worth it. The journey will reward you in one way or another; you will have gained something from it. Your worth is not tied to your outcome; your potential is not capped by the past. Self-destructive thoughts, pity parties, and being hard on yourself do not breed growth. Asking “what can I learn from this, what changes do I need to make, and why is it worth it?” does.
I’ve been choked out in competition, I’ve been submitted in .5 seconds, I’ve been injured, I’ve fallen victim to my perfectionism, and been angry at my opponents for exposing my weaknesses, I still trust the process. I eventually learned how to ask myself hard questions with a growth mindset. Writing thoughts about your loss down, asking others for help, digging deep on what your training is like, recognizing strengths and weaknesses, and, most importantly, allowing yourself to trust your own potential, are good places to start developing your new mentality.
“We win when we learn and we learn more from our struggles up the mountain than by just standing on the summit,” (Larry Bassham, 2011). Growth should be exciting, the idea of getting better should fuel you. What does adopting a growth mindset look like for you?
Fleur Wayman is a Purple Belt at Kaizen MMA where she coaches beginner and women’s classes.
Fleur is also a manual therapist and is pursuing a Doctorate of Physical Therapy so she can be a rehabilitation and movement coach for combat athletes.