Writing this the day after England’s football defeat to Uruguay is partly about sharing some thoughts on human performance and partly therapy!

The emotional reaction to defeat is one of huge disappointment, and perhaps some anger. When talented performers fail to deliver their best possible performance there is some frustration too. Yet at the same time life does not stop and the competition goes on and so a more rational reaction, and at the same time a very human one, can serve to help move forward. What is needed in the face of setback is some resilience.

Can you learn to become more resilient? Since it’s a combination of attitude, which is a choice, and behaviour, which is an action, then to be resilient is to perform in a particular way in particular conditions.

England’s footballers are not yet out of the competition and if results go their way they can still qualify so some reliance is needed right now. Here’s three elements they’ll need to focus on:

  • face up to the reality of their situation. They’ve lost two games in a row having prepared for a long time to win them both.
  • derive some learning and meaning from this. Are they not as good as they thought they were? Is their talent enough? Was it their choice of players? Was it their tactics? Their answers to these questions are obviously important and highly relevant. In the heat of competition this step might be short but you might revisit it later.
  • Based on the above, and that’s the critical bit, they need to move on and adapt. They might well need to change and try something a little different, with new players, new formation or new tactics. The bigger picture, beyond this World Cup, might need some similar process of thinking. 

So how do you do this? How do you become more resilient? An understanding of yourself, those around you and of some theory such as that described above will all help. Having others around you that can support by saying the right things at each stage can be invaluable. If the talent is there in the first place then great performances and results are possible, it just needs everything around it geared up in the right way to enable that talent to reach it’s potential, even in the face of adversity.