The Courage to Continue

Throughout life we face ups and downs, wins and losses. But what if we had an experience in which a loss, perhaps in a sporting event or relationship, can lead to a win?

Featured on the popular TV show Ellen (video clip, above), Ronda Rousey, the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, told the story of her shocking upset to Holly Holm late last year. After seeking medical attention and facing the harsh reality of her loss, she described that the champion she had trained to become had crumbled. She eventually thought, “What am I anymore if I’m not this?” Immediately following the match she was plagued by suicidal thoughts. The unexpected loss caused Ronda to completely question her identity and self-worth.

For most of us, challenges in life occur with financial strain, illness, or relationship problems. These challenges often bring forth feelings of fear, shifting us into an uncomfortable space that calls one to look at our lives and focus on self-improvement.

Striving to achieve a win seems to be in our nature. The author of The Winning Effect, Ian Robertson, explained that there is a link between our body chemistry and the rewards of winning. He writes, “Dopamine is a key element in motivation, in getting clear in our minds what we want and setting out to get it. Winning changes how we feel and think by racking up testosterone and the dopamine-sensitive brain systems responsible for an action-oriented approach.” With this in mind Rousey’s loss to Holm was not only life altering, it was brain altering. Brain scans of people enduring a loss show increased activity in areas associated with mood, memory, and perception. This finding shows the pervasive impact loss or even disappointment can have.

At The Life Change Group, we tell our clients that dwelling on a big upset – like Rousey’s – can lead to sadness or even depression, but if there is a willingness to examine the failure, you may be taking steps toward a win. The book, Every Second Counts, highlights the psychological differences between winning and losing. With embracing a loss, you not only look at your outward physical performance, but you sift through your internal workings. Rousey proclaimed that her ability to “pick myself up off the floor” is what she has been training for her whole life. She appears to be beginning to develop a new purpose for her life, but only after the loss of her championship title. It is through this internal reflection that we continue to grow, learn and redefine ourselves. This is where our loss can morph into a win.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” — Sir Winston Churchill