Fall up. Become more resilient on and off court
Life is full of ups and downs. There are moments of intense happiness, and moments of heartbreaking sadness. Eight weeks ago I lost my mom to cancer. Far too early in her young life. She had been fighting for 22 months against a rare, extremely aggressive, and very hard to detect, cancer. She had done everything – absolutely everything – to try to win her battle. But didn’t in the end. Cancer is unfortunately one of the diseases almost each family is hit by nowadays, and we all remain desperate to find a cure one day. But in the mean time, we also need to learn and grow from our experiences. Something I am trying to do, and lessons I am very honoured and happy to share with you.
What happens in our everyday life shapes us for the future and often can help us in our sports and career challenges too. From the moment my mom was diagnosed with her cancer, we were told it was incurable. We refused to believe that. We rebelled and took on the challenge to try to beat the disease and referred to this battle as the toughest squash match she, and we, were ever going to play. We had no choice of whether we felt like playing it or not, we did not hesitate one second, we accepted the challenge and were determined to bounce back. There were going to be ups and downs, points and games won and lost, there was a support team, a fantastic (physical and virtual) crowd sitting on her shoulder every time she had to go to chemotherapy or yet another scan. And there was endless courage, positivism, belief and confidence we would make it.
We lost this particular match in the end – one of the toughest of our lives – and we absolutely hated – and still hate – losing it. We still feel the pain every day. But we also realized we have to grow through this loss. We had to use this moment of adversity: accept it and become so much better from it. Like my mom courageously did. We never lose, we either win, or learn. We fall up. Tragedy and adversity can make us grow. Only, if we had the choice, we probably would prefer not to grow and keep our loved ones close to us.
This is my story – what I learned from facing adversity,
I hope it can help you with some of the challenges you face
– on and off court. – Katline Cauwels
What can be considered as adversity in a sports context?
First of all, let’s think about what adversity can be in an athletic context. It may be losing that match or tournament you worked so hard for, for weeks, months, years. Adversity can be that practice session that asbolutely didn’t go the way you wanted it, although you (thought you) really tried hard. Or the fact that you are not improving as fast as you would like to, and thus requiring more persistence and continuous effort to achieve your goals. It can be fighting against a long lasting injury, wanting to come back to the game but needing more patience, it can be being cut out of the team. Bottom line: it happens to all of us – one day or another,
What am I going to do about it?
Adversity and tragedy shake us, test us, wake us up to find our true selves. What are we going to do about it now? How are we going to deal with this? A large part of the answer is resilience. Although there is a lot of pain, you can evolve as a person and become stronger. You can become more resilient in how you approach your everyday training and your competition – but only when you learn to deal with it. The most important message is: learn to deal with it – find a way to bounce back. Here are some ways to do it – maybe one of them can work for you.
‘Adversity and tragedy shake you and
wake up forces to find our true selves.’
Accept and bounce back
One of the hardest first steps is accepting the bad news. In a sports environment that can be ‘Yes, I trained so hard for this and yet I didn’t make it today – I lost – I could not pull it all together’. It’s easier said than done. Try changing your immediate reactions and thoughts, try telling yourself: “OK, yes I lost this one, but I can and will come back stronger for the next one.” Believe it intensely and start working towards it.
Focus on how you can cope – control your emotions
Often we get emotional when we lose that super important match, even when we don’t always show it from the outside. We allow the result of the match or the practice session to affect us and increase the intensity of our emotions. We allow the result to take control of our emotions and thoughts, often far too fiercely. Don’t let that happen too much and too long. Try to immediately ‘frame’ and ‘face’ the situation, whilst turning your emotions down. And find a new challenge. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and let your emotions run away with your control.
FACE the situation: accept the fact. It can happen. It happens to the best of us. It happens to the biggest champions. Nobody becomes a champion if he doesn’t lose or knows how to deal with loss. Let it go. Stop attributing emotions to the adversity. Fall down. Stand up. And thus: Fall up. And try to do so very quickly.
FRAME the situation: Put it in the context it is actually in. How bad is it really? And what could be even worse? Can you control what is going to happen next? If so, do so immediately.
React differently – act upon what will happen next
When bad things happen we need to realize we may still be in control of what is about to happen next. We still have a choice as to how we are going to deal with the adversity. We might be a victim, but we don’t want to feel and act like one. Learn to react differently. Ignore the suggested victim role and become a survivor. Fall up.
Make it an opportunity
No matter how strange it might sound, try to discover the opportunity hidden in every challenge or moment of adversity. ‘What’s the opportunity that this is?” Treat a challenge like a new opportunity you are given, instead of a roadblock.
Believe and self belief
Succeeding in our goals is what we want to do. Experience the sensation and feel you are getting better – even though we all have ups and downs. Admit you are getting better – although you are not quite there yet. Tell yourself ‘I can do this. I have done this before. I have fallen before but I have been able to come back’.
Find the why and the ‘we’
Understand why you want to approach this differently and why you want to overcome this. Why do you love what you do, every day – whether it is an academic, athletic, or a very personal journey?
And start giving back – much more than ever before. Become more involved and aware of how you can make others become and feel better. Understand that together with your friends, family, coach, teammates, even strangers in the street you can make this world a better place. Give energy to the world. Give back. Give energy and get energy.
Realize that it all still can go wrong…
No matter how hard you work and try everything, things can still go wrong. Should that happen, know while working towards your goals you will grow. The love for the journey and for the person you may be fighting for, will never – ever – end. And that is so much more important than everything else.
You don’t recognize champions by how they celebrate their losses,
you recognize them by how they deal with defeat.
In loving memory of Danielle Cauwels, my mom – ‘Life may stop – Love never will.’ – May 11, 2017
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