Returning from set-backs can be a frustrating process. To put it in familiar, frustrated experiences: the pain and discomfort of biting the inside of our cheek or lip. Inevitably this leaves a small bruise with some swelling. Well, when we have a small swelling in a place our teeth are accustomed to having none, we end up unintentionally biting that small bruise whenever we eat or chew for the next few days. It is irritating, aggravating, defeating, and painful. As much as we tell ourselves that we are fully capable of chewing and swallowing without injuring ourselves further, it happens. Sometimes, we even start to experience a little anxiety just thinking about eating and start to think about changing our diet for a few meals just to let that small bruise get some time to heal — which makes it so much more disappointing and frustrating when we end up biting it again after the break.
Setbacks in Skill
This experience is not unlike losing a skill already developed in your sport. You could previously do it just fine — almost without thought or effort in execution; but now you struggle to get it right without feeling something is off (whether that be pain, imbalance, fear, dissatisfaction). Similar to biting the inside of your cheek or lip, this is infuriating because it is not something that “should” be difficult or challenging. Nonetheless, we find ourselves struggling with it and feeling that it has taken over our performance.
Eventually the small bruise will heal and we no longer have to worry about it. Chewing and swallowing become routine again. We eat without thinking about the process. Sometimes we can do other things while we eat because it is so effortless. Those few days when we have to concentrate and remain diligent about not reinjuring the bruise feel as if they take an eternity.
Similarly, after losing a skill we already poses, it does not take as long to recover that skill as it originally took to develop it. We will regain that skill and move forward with our performance and sport. It takes effort, determination, motivation, and awareness to overcome such a challenge. Once we overcome this struggle we are better for it, more aware, and capable of executing the skill on auto-pilot again.
Working Through Setbacks Step-by-Step
- Accept that more effort is required in an automated skill
- Recall learning this skill and the progressions that got you to perform it automatically
- Relearn with the gratitude that you are more experienced this time and can, perhaps, unlearn bad habits
- Take it slow to avoid further set-backs
- Accept that it will be a challenge and not easy
- Stick to the process, don’t give up (remain slow)
- Reward your efforts and return to greatness