I have received an overwhelming response from my previous post about how I managed to overcome my setback, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your personal stories and kind words of encouragement! I’m glad that I managed to inspire people to stay strong and accept life’s challenges. It’s really a privilege to know that I have made a difference in people’s lives! 🙂
I also got a feature on Straits Times a few days ago so I’m sure that has inspired more people as well. 🙂 The story can be found here.
If you read my blog post, I did state that it took me 2 painful years to finally see success. To be honest, I didn’t wait for success, I strived for it, and trust me you can too! 🙂 Here are some things you can do to overcome your setback, and I believe that you will be able to do it:
1) Let it out to friends and family
You are NEVER alone. Your family will always be by your side no matter what happens.
I understand that my mum was a little disappointed after my race, but who wouldn’t be? It just shows how much she cares for me, and she must have been hurt to see me that way. A fellow swimmers’ parent said, “Sometimes parents love their kids so much they can’t bear it when they fall. We’ve watched you and live through so many of your ups and downs. Sometimes the words come out wrong but believe me we are hurt when our kids are hurt too!” This excellently describes the amount of love and dedication our parents have for us. Think about it, parents wouldn’t react that way if it didn’t matter to them.
After SEA Games I sat down with my parents and let my sorrows out…
“Sheng Jun, it really hurts us to see you this way. Do you still want to pursue a career in swimming?”
“Yes, I have already came so far in my life, giving up now is not an option, let’s try for 1 more SEA Games.”
“Ok son, if this is your decision, we will support you fully. You can do it. :)”
… And I’m glad I didn’t give up.
To date, I still remember this really inspirational thing that my mum told me which really kept me going through my toughest time,
“Sheng Jun, you have to understand that out of thousands of swimmers, less than 20 make it to the SEA Games squad, you should be proud to be able to represent the country! Focus on the positive side of things, not on the negative. We are already proud of you.”
2) Realize that the worse has already happened, and it only gets better from here
My biggest fear was not being able to medal in the 2011 SEA Games after failing in 2009. So if my biggest fear has already happened, nothing else could be worse as practically nothing hurts me anymore.
So right now, it’s about looking forward, learn from all the bad memories because everything will only get better from here. 🙂
3) Forgive yourself and give yourself time to recover
I initially found it really hard to forgive myself for losing. I always strived for perfection and seeing myself fall so low really hit me hard. But after awhile I realized that in life, there is no use crying over spilt milk. What is done cannot be undone. So why don’t we make full use of what’s to come, rather than ponder on what has already happened? We can dictate our future, but not change our past, so focusing on what’s ahead is key.
I also came to an understanding that even though I didn’t win, I did swim to the best of my ability. It’s not as though I didn’t give my all during the race. With that in mind, I slowly forgave myself for losing and started training hard from then.
As the saying goes “Time heals all wounds”. Even the best fall down sometimes, so it’s perfectly fine if we fall down at times as well. 🙂
4) Have a good support group
Balancing swimming and studies is never easy. Therefore, surrounding yourself with positive teammates/friends really makes a difference. Motivating each other during our toughest times is the key to picking yourself up! All athletes experience low moments at some point in their career, so if someone fails, we can totally relate to it and let them know that failing is part and parcel of life.
During my lowest point in my career, I always had friends that encouraged me. We always pushed ourselves to our limits. Things like never ever giving up, to do that extra rep in the gym, letting our most unglam side of us out during our swimming and gym sessions, this is what bonds us so close together and it really motivates us to train really hard.
5) The key to success is taking baby steps
You can’t expect to achieve success if you don’t work hard. It takes a lot of hard work and effort which will eventually pay off overtime. Setting goals really helps me to achieve my dreams.
What I do is to set a long term goal, which for me was to get a medal in the 2013 SEA Games, and have short term goals which I would want to achieve leading up to the games.
Setting short term goals are really effective as it allows you to track your progress and see if you are on track to achieving your long term goal. If you are not on track, you either can choose to work harder, or change your long term goal.
The short term goal for me was to be the top few in Singapore first, which would make me eligible to make the SEA Games team which would in turn lead me to my long term goal of getting a medal in the SEA Games. So what would I have to do to achieve my short term goal? It’s pretty obvious, to make sure that I am training 10 times a week and also managing my studies well so I wouldn’t have to stress out too much when exams come.
So always remember, setting a long term goal and taking baby steps would lead you to success. 🙂
6) Accept reality
It may be hard to accept reality at first, but how I overcame my failure was that I always believed that everything happens for a reason, obstacles are placed in our paths for a purpose. My parents always told me that if we do not fail before we succeed, then we would not appreciate our success.
Sport builds character, and if success comes too easily, we tend to appreciate them less, it’s just human nature. Take me for an example, I safe keep my SEA Games and World Cup medals in my room and make sure that they are close to me. Why is this so? Because they were hard earned. Whereas for the other medals, I honestly can’t recall where I put them, not because I’m too good to keep them, but it is just human nature.
So if you fail at something, just remember that there is a better path set for you in the future. 🙂
7) Stay positive
I’ve failed to medal in 2 consecutive SEA Games, does that make me a bad swimmer? No, I don’t think so.
Life is all about perception. Like what my mum said, I’m still one of the 20 athletes that made it to the team. So we should learn to see the good in a bad situation and be happy for whatever that happens.
So once you replace all those negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start to see positive results! Just try it. 🙂
8) Don’t compare
Last but not least, we should be contented with what we have and not compare with anyone else. Of course, we should always strive to be the best, that is what motivates us to work hard. However, if we had already tried our best, we should be contented anyway.
I was having a conversation with my friends the other time and we kinda came to a conclusion that the reason why people are not contented is because they tend to compare themselves with others.
To be honest, there will always be someone that is better than you no matter what. I have to admit that there are many others that are better than me, but that does not mean that I shouldn’t be contented with what I have.
It’s not always about who wins more medals, who drives the bigger car, who has the biggest house. As long as you are happy with what you have, nothing else matters. 🙂
I have learnt to be contented with what I have as I mature over the years and the only person I compare with is myself. I have a quote I stick on my cupboard which I read everyday. It says, “The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about you being better than you were the day before.” With that mindset, I aim to better my own performances everyday when I am at the pool, and I know that as long as I’ve tried my best, I am already contented.
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