Recovery Means Embracing Failure




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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

Over the past month, I’ve been working with my son every day to help him with his basketball game – specifically his shooting.

Not that I’m an expert coach, but I do my fair share of research and am fortunate to have a really good friend who really knows his stuff and has welcomed the opportunity to coach Hunter once a week.

Like anything, the process has been a slow one.

Lots of ups, lots of downs, and lots of work, but after 4 weeks I can honestly say Hunter’s shooting form (and accuracy) has improved greatly. For Hunter, the journey has been challenging and even discouraging because, like most people (especially kids), he wants faster results, but to his credit, he’s stayed the course and has seen a lot of growth in his game.

The funny thing is, throughout this process, I’ve observed many parallels between his journey and the journey of those we help each day.

Lessons that apply not only to basketball, but to recovery and life.

Over the next several weeks I will be sharing one of these lessons with you each week, but today I just want to focus on this one:

Recovery Means Embracing Failure.

If you want to find real and lasting freedom, you can’t afford to ignore critical components of a balanced recovery

Listen, failure is never fun and we shouldn’t strive to fail. But it’s an inevitable part of growth and if we can’t embrace the opportunities failure presents us for learning, we will struggle greatly when hitting moments of difficulty or temporary setbacks.

The truth is, Hunter had a pretty nice shot for a kid his age. In fact, he was the best shooter on his travel team this past season; but his form and skill level were far below where it needs to be if he wants to make the varsity team in high school.


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And so, as he learns (or relearns) to shoot the correct way, he’s experiencing more misses than what he is accustomed to. Consequently, in those moments of failure, he can sometimes spiral into a state of discouragement.

And when that happens, guess what?

His shots get worse.
His focus devolves.
His confidence erodes.

And he starts to question his ability and the real possibility of improving his game.

But in those moments, I have to remind him that learning isn’t easy and while failure is unpleasant, it’s needed. In fact, it’s one of the best teachers because failure allows us the opportunity to examine our “game” and adjust what’s broken.

In basketball, this means reviewing one’s form, foot work, follow through, and arc on the ball.

In recovery it means:

1. Taking time to ask yourself what could have gone differently.

2. Figuring out what led up to your slip up or relapse.

3. Examining your emotional state prior and during your actions.

4. Leaning into your community for support and additional insight.

5. Going back to your values and goals and asking yourself why you didn’t consider those when you made your unfortunate decision.

6. Identifying what may have been lacking in your overall “game plan” and resolving to not forsake those things next time.

Admittedly, failure is something we all rather not experience. But if we can’t learn from it and even welcome the opportunity it provides us to move forward, we may fall into a pit of shame so deep that any progress we have made will seem insignificant in the moment.

In summary, I will tell you what I tell my son when his shooting drills aren’t going the way he planned.

1. Stay on task.

2. Keep a level head.

3. Use your failures to learn.

4. Remind yourself that growth is a process and be patient with your progress.

5. Don’t buy into the negative self-talk.

Because at the end of the day, embracing failure doesn’t mean reclining in it or being satisfied with it. But it does mean seizing the opportunity it offers to grow and move forward.

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