Going for it on 4th down and goal is one of the most exciting plays in football.
The offense is likely no more than a handful of feet away from a hard-fought, momentum-swinging touchdown.
The defense just needs to hold strong for one more play to thwart the opposition’s threat.
If the offense fails, it is the height of rejection in the game of the football. In fact, it is one of the most rejecting and dejecting moments in all of sports.
Offensive plays teeter back towards their sideline with heads down, spirits broken, and some looking back towards the goal line as if wondering what exactly went wrong.
While the defense celebrates, the offense mourns an opportunity for success not seized upon.
But in the immortal words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, “Why so serious?”
As with everything, it’s all about perspective
Sure, getting stopped on 4th and goal sucks. Not only did the offense miss a chance for a touchdown, but they also passed up three virtually guaranteed points. And their failure has given a momentary injection of confidence into the opposing team. Now they have the ball with a chance to do what their opponent could not.
Here’s where I’d like to slam the brakes on all of this pessimism though. Why look at it that way?
Consider these facts:
1) The offense went for it. It may not have worked out this time, but the odds for success were in their favor (or very close to it depending on the yardage); either way, they can draw confidence and swagger from having made the attempt even though it failed.
2) As a team, the offense covered 98 or 99 yards of the opposition’s territory to get into 4th and goal. No, they didn’t score this time, but they sure as heck showed that they have the chops to do so in the future. That should give them confidence.
3) Their opponent now has to start from their 1- or 2-yard line. If a tackle, a hold, or intentional grounding occurs in the end zone, the defense scores two points on a safety and gets the ball back for their offense in great field position.
This means that if the best case scenario plays out, a safety plus a touchdown, that team that failed on 4th and goal could actually score nine points as opposed to the seven they were going for or the three they passed up.
Yes, amazingly, a better opportunity, even if less likely, is now on the table. Let that be motivation!
4) That play is over.
Acknowledging disappointment and figuring out what went wrong is good, even necessary. But excessive worrying won’t change it. All you can affect now is the next play.
It’s all based on perspective.
Last week I wrote a post about how choosing to have a positive attitude is the single greatest gift we can ever give ourselves. This is undeniably true.
One example I used in that post was choosing to see the bright side of a traffic jam. Because a traffic jam is a relatively inconsequential occurrence in the grand scheme of things, it is not that hard to overcome.
Rejection, on the other hand, very often can be a difficult occurrence to overcome. Our ability to do so lies in our ability to acknowledge it, channel it, and find the positive in it.
How do we do that?
First, understand that rejection comes in many shapes and sizes, and it will happen to us. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
- A potential employer may pass us up for another candidate.
- An object of our affection may inform us that the feelings are not mutual.
- An idea that we think is great may be met with skepticism and doubt once explained.
The opportunities for rejection are infinite. What is important though is not the rejection, but how we handle it.
First, acknowledge it.
There is no point in denying it, trying to wish it away, or making excuses. We got rejected.
Acknowledge the rejection and even absorb the inevitable negative feelings. It sucks. There is no reason to hide from it.
The negative feelings are coming, and they are going to get us at some point. Why not let them get us right now, in the immediate aftermath of the rejection, so we can move on from them as quickly as possible?
Embrace the negativity. It’s the only way to grab it, shake it, and spin it into a positive.
Next, channel it.
This is where the negative gets flipped on itself, and it can happen in a number of ways.
If we can assess the situation in hindsight and tell ourselves honestly that we did everything we could to avoid the rejection, then we have little reason to worry. In this case, once we have absorbed the negatives…let them go.
We did everything we could right? So apparently this rejection was out of our control. Fine. It happens.
Let’s channel some confidence from putting ourselves out there and move right on to the next opportunity.
On the other hand, if we look at the situation in hindsight and realize that we did not do everything we could to avoid the rejection, now we can channel it into a learning opportunity.
This is good too. We now have a chance to learn from a mistake, become better for it, and possibly even correct it.
Whether we attempt to reverse the rejection at a later date, now stronger thanks to what we’ve learned, or whether we take the lesson and move onto something else…we’re better in the long run because of it.
Finally, find the positive.
Well, if we learned a lesson, the positive is easy to find. But I’m also human enough to know that taking solace is some nebulous lesson is often far easier said than done.
In practice, the best positives that result from rejection often are not the potential lessons we can learn but the potential opportunities that are now open to us that would not otherwise be available.
As the old saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens.” It’s a cliche because it’s true.
Just like in football, the 4th and goal failure sucks, and missing out on the seven points sucks, but the immediate flip side is a chance to score nine points with a motivated approach and a fortuitous ball bounce here or there.
No, we don’t want to spend our lives hoping or wishing for unlikely events to happen, but focusing on this new opportunity is a productive immediate thought to ensure that we move past the rejection and take positive steps immediately.
And who’s to say we can’t make it happen?
The immediate aftermath of a rejection is not the time to limit or doubt ourselves. Let’s change the perspective. It’s the perfect time to go all out with a nothing-to-lose mentality.
We just lost what we ostensibly wanted right? Fine. Let’s go for something better.
Rejection in any form sucks as it happens. We should never be afraid to admit the truth to ourselves.
But rejection does not have to throw us off course or steal our positive attitudes away from us.
By humbly acknowledging the rejection and then having the pride to step up and channel it into something productive, we can take a negative and turn it into a positive.
The more ways we know how to do that effectively, the happier, more optimistic, and more fulfilled we will always feel.
What are some of your strategies for dealing with rejection?
How would this framework for dealing with rejection fit into your life? Do you have something better?
As always, comments encouraged below.