It was an instant classic. The men's final of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, which was an epic five-hour, five-set marathon ultimately won in a tiebreaker by Djokovic.
What was also an instant classic for entrepreneurs, however, came from Federer's joking demeanor after the match, when he was interviewed onscreen by BBC presenter and former Grand Slam champion Sue Barker. Barker complimented Federer for his performance in a final that we would "remember forever."
"I will try to forget."
First, very funny. (Five hours of magnificent, grueling tennis, and now he's a comedian, too?) Second, pay attention, entrepreneurs, because we should "try to forget" too.
Especially when we experience our version of a loss: a literal lost sale, for example, or a more figurative defeat emotionally or psychologically. They are all learning opportunities that, certainly, we wish had ended up differently.
The point is, we have to put it behind us and move ahead. The idea is not a new one, either in leadership or in sports: Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's "next play" philosophy is well-documented, for example, and icons from Oprah to Richard Branson have learned to "drop the rocks" they would have otherwise carried around, if they failed to process negative experiences properly.
This past week, I was commiserating with my son about experiences we have in common, where we both made a big mistake, had to manage the repercussions, and then figure out how to move on. His experience was less fresh than mine, so I asked him how he's handled it since it happened.
"I try not to think about it," he said, while also noticing the sting that the experience still delivers, even well after the fact.
What my son's response has in common with Federer's comment after yesterday's Wimbledon final is the "look ahead" mentality--but there's also a key word that they each said, which was that they try to forget, and they try not to think about it. This acknowledges the likelihood that, sure, a challenging experience is difficult to erase from your memory. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, or that it isn't healthy for us to try.
Here are three reasons to try to forget:
Thinking about past mistakes is the same as experiencing them.
"Ruminating retriggers all those same emotions--shame, sadness, anger--over and over," says Erin Olivo, PhD, a Columbia University assistant professor of medical psychology. "From your brain's point of view, there is no difference emotionally between experiencing the negative event and thinking about the negative event. And when those negative emotions are elevated on a chronic basis, that's stress."
In other words, purposely try to metabolize your emotions in a safe and responsible manner, and then try to eliminate them and move forward so that the negativity around the experience has been properly processed.
Unprocessed emotions leave rocks in your head.
People who are dissatisfied with their jobs and career choices fail to process negative emotions properly, says career coach J.T. O'Donnell. Not processing emotions properly leads them to attach heavy emotions to things from their past, which become rocks in their memory that they carry with them as they try to move forward and improve.
Sounds heavy, doesn't it? It may not be the prettiest metaphor, but it works. Instead of rocks in your head, try using them as stepping stones to move forward.
The only moment you have is now.
It sounds extremely basic but it's a helpful reminder every time I hear it or think it: The only moment we can control is the one we're in right now. Not moments in the past (i.e., the rocks) and not moments in the future (i.e., expectations), but just the one that's here now.
When we get to the next moment, we think "now this moment"--and so on, until time has passed and you're in a different place than when you started.