Why Losses Hurt So Much

When I adapted Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for Teens (February 24), I wanted to make it conversational in a way that would appeal to a teen or preteen. And I decided to make it more interactive, with sections for journaling and even Q and A with me.

Here is another excerpt from the book. I hope you will share it with a young person in your life, and that it encourages them to view losses differently:

As a kid, I played basketball and was very competitive. I liked to win, and I hated losing. When I was in my early twenties, I went to a class reunion, where I played in a game against other former players from my high school team. We were all eager to prove we could still play at the same level, and it turned out to be a very physical game. Of course, I wanted to win, so I was very aggressive. After I knocked one opponent to the floor, he shouted in frustration, “Back off, it’s only a game!”

My reply: “Then let me win.”

I’m not exactly proud of that, but I think it shows how much most of us like to win. When we win, nothing hurts. But when we lose, everything is hard. And the only time you hear someone use the phrase “It’s only a game” is when that person is losing.

Think of some of the losses in your life and how they made you feel. Not good, right? And it’s not just the pain of the moment that affects us. Our losses also cause us other difficulties. Here are two:

Losses Cause Us to Be Emotionally Stuck

Author and speaker Les Brown says, “The good times we put in our pocket. The hard times we put into our heart.” I have found that to be true in my life. In my heart I still carry some of the bad times. I bet you do, too. The negative experiences affect us more deeply than positive ones, and if you’re like me, you may get emotionally stuck.

It’s been said that if an ocean liner could think and feel, it would never leave its dock. It would be afraid of the thou- sands of huge waves it would have to encounter during its travels. Anxiety and fear can really damage the human heart. So can losses. They can weaken, imprison, paralyze, discourage, and sicken us. To be successful, we need to find ways to get unstuck emotionally.

Journal It!

Have you ever kept a journal? I’ve found that many very successful people do. I believe it’s because writing in a journal can help you think through your reactions to the things that happen to you. By journaling what you think and feel, you’re able to see a situation clearly and figure out what to do next. It allows you to get unstuck emotionally and move forward. I recommend that you keep a journal while reading this book.

For your first journal entry, spend some time writing about your attitude on failure. Many people are really afraid of failure. How much do you fear it? When you do mess up, what feelings get stirred up? Anger? Sadness? Do you feel defeated? How hard is it for you to get unstuck and move forward?

As you continue reading, you’ll find more exercises like this one. I also encourage you to write down in your journal how you feel about what you’re reading. Doing so will help you to track your progress and growth as you go.

 

Losses Cause Us to Be Mentally Defeated

Life is a series of losses. In childhood you lose your favorite toys. You get older and lose days dedicated to play and exploration. You lose the privilege of being irresponsible and carefree. Later, you’ll separate from the protection of your family as you leave the nest and take on adult responsibilities. Over the course of your adult life, you’ll lose jobs and positions. Your self-esteem may take a beating. You may lose money. You’ll miss opportunities. Friends and family may die or move on. All along, everyone’s life is filled with loss. Some losses are great; some are small. And the losses we face affect how we think. Some people handle losing well, while others don’t.

Too often losing can go to your head. It can defeat you, and you might have trouble coming up with solutions to your challenges. As the losses build up, they become more of a burden. You probably regret the losses of yesterday. And you fear the losses of tomorrow.

But here’s the thing: We want success, but we should train for losses. We need to expect mistakes, failures, and losses in life, since each of us will face many of them. But we need to take them as they come, not allow them to build up. As printer William A. Ward said, “Man, like a bridge, was designed to carry the load of the moment, not the combined weight of a year all at once.”

Q&A with JOHN

Q: What was one of your biggest losses growing up?

A: It was my junior year of high school. I was on the varsity basketball team, and we were expected to do really well. People were saying that we could win the state championship. We just had a lot of talent on the team. But we didn’t win the championship. We didn’t even come close. It was devastating and discouraging for me, but I learned something big from it. Our team had failed because the juniors and seniors didn’t get along. So we didn’t work together. What I learned was the importance of teamwork—even more than talent— in winning. The next year, as a senior, I did my part in making us a unified team. And as a result, we played much better— even though the amount of talent was less.

Adapted from Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for Teens (February 24, 2015)

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