We have all had a jump that did not live up to our expectations. It could be a meet, a record attempt, or just a weekend jump that was not what you hoped. So how do you emotionally move on quickly so you can do your best on the next one?
Performance vs. safety
I’m focusing here on a bad jump in terms of technical performance. However, if you have a near-miss in a safety-related way, these steps can help you recover. Additionally, use the opportunity to embrace your fallibility and learn everything you can from your near miss.
Each Jump Isolated
Jumps are isolated. Excellent or lousy jump, the last jump doesn’t affect what happens on the next skydive. Intellectually this is easy to acknowledge. Practically though, we are emotionally driven creatures, and it can be hard not to dwell on past performances.
Remind yourself that each new jump is a fresh opportunity to shine.
If you had an awful skydive and you can’t shake the feeling, reset to more straightforward goals. When you expect total perfection or have a laundry list of items to do, you will judge yourself as a failure for not mastering all of them. So instead of fixing everything at once, aim to improve a couple of small things.
If you break things down into achievable steps, you’ll feel more in control. For example, focus on a super exit, take a breath out the door, and keep your eyes through the center to improve confidence.
When it is a sour jump, it is easy to focus on the mistake and forget everything good. Maybe you missed a catch in a competition or had a brain lock. Chances are, the error was tinier in reality than in your memory, and you probably did dozens of things very well. So list out the good stuff in your head to help balance out the negative.
Sometimes emotions do not listen to logic. So, consider distracting yourself with some other activity until they dissipate. Maybe chat with some friends on the DZ, check an email, watch a funny video, do some jumping jacks, or play some hacky sack. A happy distraction might be the reset button you need.
Boost your confidence
Create a list of all the times you crushed it, got a compliment from someone, or overcame a difficult task to succeed (not limited to skydiving). Make this list! Then re-read your confidence resume. It helps.
When in doubt, act confident. Force yourself to emulate confident and happy body language for a while. Weirdly, if you make yourself act like a champion for a bit, your emotions will align with your bold new body language and attitude.
Process over outcome
If you are having a bad day, concentrate on the needed skills instead of the consequences. Avoid dwelling on the score or getting called out in a debrief; make a list of actionable items for your next jump.
Don’t think about a pink elephant – if you think “don’t go low” over and over, you are more likely to do it. Instead, develop short, manageable goals that will make you successful – looking, stopping, and staying calm.
Embrace the learning process
Everyone wants to learn fast and be a rockstar. But even rockstars struggle eventually. You will learn things when you can, and whenever that happens is fine. Don’t wedge yourself into a preconceived notion of how good you “should be.”
My favorite learning analogy is a flower blooming. You can’t make a flower bloom faster. You can only provide it with light, water, and a good environment until it is ready. Your job is to put yourself in the right situations and mindsets to maximize your learning. After you have done that, all you can do is sit back and enjoy the process.
One big reason for failing to embrace the learning process is the fear of embarrassment. No one likes to look terrible in front of others, and we want to be as good or better than our perceived peers.
But just like in real life, comparing yourself to other people is a recipe for misery because the feelings of inadequacy won’t stop. So be who you are, where you are.
Also, keep perspective. If you are a wonderful person who brings joy to others, no one will think less of you because of your skydiving skill. You are not your skydives.
Laugh and enjoy your mistakes
Do you know that guy or gal in the debrief who messes up and owns it? Has a big smile on their face, points at themselves, buys beer, struts chest out anyway, and welcomes the joking? Do that! Have a good laugh at your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, so you might as well have fun with it!
If you don’t want a single poor performance to cloud your event, competition, training, or jumping day you need to learn from it and move. Pull yourself out of a slump by isolating each jump, setting simple process goals, embrace learning, boosting your confidence, and laughing along at your mistakes.