Laudatory headlines greeted Mikaela Shiffrin’s accomplishment this week in moving past Lindsey Vonn to set a record for women’s Alpine ski racing.  And she’s not finished! It’s clear more greatness awaits.

But it was only about a year ago when the defending Olympic gold medalist was unable to even complete two runs at the 2022 Winter Olympics.  Coverage then focused on her failure.  Fortunately, Mikaela learned from that experience which shows the importance of not letting an upset, no matter how devastating, be a defining moment.

While most of us are far from this level of competition (and we don’t pretend to have inside knowledge of Mikaela’s mental process), there are applicable lessons to be learned as we begin a new year of goal setting, conditioning, and competing. Learning from failure is important because success does not follow a clear path.

In fact, learning to handle setbacks is a key part of our ability to achieve our goals. As athletes, it is easy to get caught up in expecting a linear trajectory of improvement. We may wrongfully assume that if we take one action, then we will automatically progress to the next level, and so on. It would be wonderful if training and competing worked like this; however, most performances consist of many ups and downs, rather than being perfectly incremental. 

When we set false expectations, we can place even more pressure on ourselves to see certain results. And if we have a negative mindset towards performances that are less than optimal, it can create a downward mental spiral that becomes yet another impediment.

Instead of negativity when things appear to go off track, we need to embrace a growth mindset.  This means that we allow ourselves grace for failure and the ability to LEARN from that failure.  This all helps build skills that benefit us in the long run.  

How can you build the muscles to embrace the ups and downs of your journey?

  1. Keep a positive mindset
    • What are some positives from an outcome that was less than optimal?
  2. Learn from our failures
    • Rather than see failures as a negative, see them as part of the process. What are some takeaways that you can use to improve for next time?
  3. Trust the process
    • Focus on what you can control and remember what you enjoy about the sport or the goals we are chasing.

Remember that not all failures are created equal.  Whatever the challenge, remember your goal and focus on what you’re learning, not what you’re losing.  And remember a certain skier who bounced back and won!  

Tell us about one (or more) of your failures as an athlete or coach, what you learned from that experience, and what helped along the way at