Looking for the silver lining in things can be important to your mental health, and outlook on the future of your training. It’s important to find the small successes in in your progress. However (always a however with me), there comes a point when that search for the silver lining simply becomes nothing more than a thought process that keeps you from progressing.
For example, we got to competitions, for the most part, with the hopes of winning. Sometimes, you don’t need to win to have a good time, sometimes you learn valuable lessons and make new friends at competitions. For the most part, though, we go to competitions with the goal of winning, that is the purpose of competition: to test yourself against your opponents. You can say “I do this for me” all you like, but if it was truly for yourself with no hopes of winning, you probably wouldn’t compete.
The search for silver lining can begin to hold you back when the search for a silver lining simply becomes a way to make up excuses for not performing well. “I missed my lift, but at least my walkout was better.” Yes, an improved walkout is always good, but you aren’t competing in the sporting of walking out, are you?
If you consistently need to find the silver lining because you consistently under-perform, this can be a sign that what you’re doing with your own training isn’t working. Now, I’m obviously not saying that looking for small victories is a negative aspect of your life. What I AM saying is that if all your training affords you is small victories with no ACTUAL progress, there is a problem here. I have worked with many athletes, in the hundreds by now, and the ones that never stick around very long are the ones who are incapable of looking at their own progress critically. “Yea my deadlift hasn’t progressed in over four years, but my technique is much more solid.” So? If you were actually progressing, your deadlift would be as well. The above example was a woman who “plateaued” her deadlift at 225lbs for FOUR years. Now, I am no Alex Viada, but even I know that the words “plateau” and “235lb deadlift” don’t belong in the same sentence, paragraph, or even textbook. This woman was incapable of saying to herself: “you know what? What I’m doing isn’t working, I need to change what I am doing.” Who honestly cares if the technique is sound with a lift that is 75% of your max? I would HOPE that it is flawless, and was flawless from the beginning, because working at 75% for four years is a surefire sign that something needed to be changed, dramatically.
This also harks back to my earlier thoughts on athletes that head into competitions with super-inflated egos, under-perform, then leave the competition with a list of excuses as to why they under-performed: “The lights were in my eyes / the judge was a dick / I wasn’t used to the plates.” (Those were all said by actual competitors) And, as I said before, you probably wouldn’t need such a long laundry list of excuses about your performance if you didn’t go in with such a big mouth. The POINT of a competition is to be out of your element, to see how you perform. Everyone else has the same judge, lights, and plates to lift on, with the same disadvantages. Of course we would all perform better if we got to lift in our favorite spot with our favorite gear. Are there dick judges? Of course. If you are discovering that every judge is a dick to you, well then you are most likely the veiny one in this scenario.
To summarize, it is important to look for small victories when the large victories elude you. But, if you want to be successful, you need to focus on the large victories as well. Constantly needing to make up excuses or look for silver lining when you under-perform can simply be a sign that what you’re doing isn’t working, and your ego is too big to admit it.