Find victory in defeat.

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” —Winston Churchill

Success is a funny thing. Success for you looks different from success for me, which looks different from success for someone else. Similarly, defeat for one person might be success to another. The irony of success is that there is no universal definition. Therefore, success and defeat lie 100 percent in your mind. You are in control. You are the one that defines it. That doesn’t mean you are going to change your definition of success overnight and all of a sudden you feel like a smashing success. It takes work to change the lens you view success and failure through, but it isn’t impossible. Just knowing you are in control can cause a major shift in your perspective.


What else can you do to snatch victory from the face of defeat?

1. Just keep swimming: Or running or playing. Keep moving forward. Take this powerful advice from Dory and keep moving forward. Define success by motion. Are you able to keep moving forward even if it is from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm? We love Dory “From Finding Nemo” because she just keeps swimming and she has such a great attitude about it!

2. Reframe success and failure: Many people view success as the accomplishment of a goal and failure as the inability to accomplish a goal. Most people define their goal as an endpoint. “I am going to run a half marathon.” “I am going to run every day for a month.” If I don’t finish the half marathon, I failed. If I don’t run every day for the entire month, I failed. What I miss with this definition is all the gains I might have gotten from training for the half marathon or from the days I did go for a run. Even if I don’t run every day, the process of running is a success.

3. Shift from results focus to process focus: Building off the points above, we can snatch victory from the face of defeat by focusing on the process and not the results. I can always improve my process, but I can’t control results. I can set results as a target to build my process. Then I can use the progress toward the goal as a sign my process does or doesn’t work. The target is only to measure my progress and to adjust my process.

4. Make discomfort your home: Victory lies in the space where you are feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable or uncertain. So if you notice you are feeling uncomfortable, count that as a win! Living in the moment, discomfort and failure can make you feel like you are losing. However, if you look back at life, phases of growth were filled with discomfort. Discomfort is a sign of growth.

5. Be compassionate: You are on this journey. You are doing the work. You have to accept your current situation before you can move forward. Show yourself some compassion. Empathize with what you are going through. Often, the best way to get out of something is to go through it. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you will all of a sudden lose your drive to achieve and succeed. Being compassionate to yourself doesn’t mean you will all of a sudden accept failure or laziness. Being compassionate means you can live with the results and begin the process of moving forward with enthusiasm.

Success is yours to pursue. The Seattle Seahawks have a mantra: “Relentless pursuit of better.” They aren’t pursuing perfection. They aren’t pursuing a result. They are pursuing improvement. Whether you are a competitive athlete or just trying to live a healthy life, shifting your definition of success can make all the difference.

I will leave you a line from one of my favorite poems:

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything in it. And—which is more—you will be a Man, my son!”
—“If” by Rudyard Kipling

Just keep running, swimming, moving.

More Than a Run

By Lashaun Dale

Marathon runner Sylvia Weiner is a shining example of the transformational powers of movement. Weiner, now 86, runs every day she can and says running (and God) saved her life.

Weiner was the first woman to ever win the Boston Marathon’s women’s masters division, which she did in 1975, at age 44, with a time of 3:21:38. She is Polish-born and survived several years in three German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, where she met Anne Frank before she died. Weiner says she suffered for decades trying to forget the atrocities she experienced, including the loss of her seven siblings and her parents. It was not until she discovered and committed to a running routine that she was finally able to live her life free of sleeping pills and tranquilizers.

William James once said that the strenuous life tastes better. Perhaps this explains why running is second only to walking as the most popular activity. The late running philosopher Dr. George Sheehan inspired millions to run, not just for its physical benefits but also for its impact on character and life. In his book “Running & Being (Rodale, 2014), he shares: “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.” Almost any sport or movement activity that we fully embrace that challenges us also reveals our humanity.

Running brings us into direct contact with our most primal natural self, and as we pass terrain, people, we clear space to hear the rhythms of our physiology, our breath, the impact of our feet, our clothing brushing against our skin and the strong beat of our heart. We can feel the struggle of our muscles and our lungs, but mostly, we feel the battle inside our minds.  “Running is a monastery—a retreat, a place to commune with God and yourself, a place for psychological and spiritual renewal,” Sheehan says. “In the absolute commitment of our physiology, we have the chance to clear our psychology and make space once more for that which matters to us most.”

Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., agrees. Suzuki is a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University and the author of the book “Healthy Brain, Happy Life” (Dey Street Books, 2016). Her research has focused mainly on two questions. She is interested in understanding how our brains allow us to learn and retain new long-term memories for facts and events. She is also interested in understanding the effects of aerobic exercise on our learning memory and cognitive abilities. Through various clinical studies, she has demonstrated that aerobic exercise is the new magic bullet for your brain. Exercise such as running has implications on how we live and how we learn.

We have always known that exercise was good for our body, but we now know that the biological connection between exercise, mindfulness and action is real. With running, your body feels more alive and your brain performs better, giving you new space to feel whole and free and more human.

Photo credits: magiceyes, 123RF; RG&B, Stocksy