One of the great sports stars of our era is Roger Federer. He leads all tennis players with 17 Grand Slam titles. At 33 years old he is still competing at the top level and still winning tournaments.
But he isn’t as dominating as he has been in some years past. This past weekend he lost a tight finals match against Novak Djokovic at the Indian Wells Masters tournament.
He’s played long enough to understand how difficult it is to win at this top level. And he knows that each time a player loses in the finals it was an opportunity they may not get again.
So I was interested to read that Federer insisted that he would not dwell on the defeat. He said:
“I’m not going to look back on that match, on that moment very long. That will be forgotten probably in 25 minutes or so. When I walk out of here, I will be like, ’It was a good tournament.’ I had a great run, a good start to the season, and wished and hoped I could have won today. Novak was tough and he played very well. He deserved it, and I will respect that.”
Life – even one of a storied athlete – comes with disappointments. But here’s a key to life all of us can learn from Roger Federer: Don’t waste much time dwelling on past regrets.
Athletes and other successful people in life will learn from their past, yes, but they will move on to the next challenge or task at hand. You can’t win all the time.
And you and I are not going to be perfect all the time. We’re going to mess up and do things and say things we wish we had done better or worded more precisely.
So what do you do with past failures and losses? Here’s some advice:
- Spend no more than a half hour looking back at what you did and what you can learn from the experience. Federer I’m sure did the same. He and his coach will review the match, see if there’s anything to work on, and then start working to improve.
- Look at the next opportunity coming your way. It may be a task. It may be a relational situation you are going to be in. Move your focus to the next challenge on the horizon.
- Live as much as you can in the present. It’s the only place you can live. The past is just that—past. The future is just that—not having happened yet. It’s good to plan for it but not to the point you miss out on life that’s happening now.
The Hebrew writer put it this way: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The word for “forgetting” has to do with “neglecting” or not “caring for” something. Learn to do that with life’s failures and disappointments and you’ll be freed up to go after the ultimate prize in life.
You might train yourself to forget about them in about 25 minutes.
Question: How difficult is it for you to move on after a loss or mistake?