NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain scored 20+ points in 126 consecutive games between 1961 and 1963. Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses won 122 consecutive races between 1977 and 1987. I posted to this blog 119 weeks in a row between 2016 and 2018. My own personal 119-week winning streak.
As you may have noticed, my streak ended last week.
Like all-time greats Wilt and Edwin, I kept a streak alive for over two years. But also like these greats, I now have to deal with what happens when a streak is over.
The Thing About Streaks
A winning streak can be a wonderful thing. It can build momentum, confidence, and the habit of winning. It can give you an extra reason to keep pushing and keep at it. A winning streak can be its own reason to consistently produce.
There’s comfort in knowing you’re on a streak, but tremendous pressure too. Many times over the last two years I wondered how long I could keep it up without faltering.
“Is this the week I break my streak?” was a question I would constantly have to answer.
But as each week passed with a post on the blog, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment and answered that question by saying, “no, this is not that week.” Friday mornings would bring a sense of calm and satisfaction. But often, my greatest feeling was relief.
Fear Of Failure As Motivator
When you get on a winning streak, it’s easy to start feeling a bit of dread. What will happen when I do fail?
Other types of people would probably just focus on all the winning and not worry about an impending loss. But we Manic Impressives have more on the line. We are often haunted by the many things we’ve started and not finished in our lives. So doing something consistently is a big deal for us.
Failing during a streak can reinforce a lot of negative crap we have rattling round in our heads. We worry that once we do fail, we won’t be able to recover and we’ll fall into a self-loathing hole and be worse off than if we had never tried in the first place.
That’s why bringing a project to completion or continuing a streak is such a big deal for people like us. We have reason to worry that once we fall off that horse, we won’t be able to get back on. We’ll lose our momentum, lose interest, or get distracted by something else.
Aging Manic Impressives like me can’t afford to not finish things.
Negative Self Talk
In 2007, during the San Diego Marathon, I faced the same dilemma. I’d had a great day in 2006 and had trained hard to come back and beat my time. In 2008 I would train again, have a fabulous day and set a triumphant personal best.
But in 2007, everything was going wrong. My pre-race routine got messed up, I developed a blister and started feeling sick to my stomach. But the thought of quitting after so much training was even more sickening.
At mile 19 my coach handed me a bottle of Gatorade. It slipped out of my hand, and as I bent over to pick it up, I nearly fell on my head. Right then I knew that if I stopped, even for a minute, I would never regain the momentum to finish the race.
So I stumbled on, and slightly revived by the drink, managed to finish. But it was not a triumph. I suffered torture so I wouldn’t suffer shame. I pushed myself with negative thoughts of how I would feel if I did not finish. All stick and no carrot.
My prize was feeling physically ill and not being able to eat a normal meal for almost a week. All because of what I was telling myself.
Why The Big Deal?
Why couldn’t I just stop? No one was paying me and I’m not a pro athlete like Wilt or Edwin. No one else cared about my silly race.
Why did I punish myself instead of just quitting? So I could brag about taking 14813th place? No, that’s not it.
It’s because I am Manic Impressive – I have a nasty inner critic, and a long memory of all the times I didn’t finish something in my life.
What To Do When Your Winning Streak Is Over
So now that my lovely little streak is over, it’s important that I learn from my past. At times like this, there are only three things to do.
Dust yourself off and pat yourself on the back. A lot. You earned it and you need it. So you can start another streak and not fall into that hole we talked about.
Reframe Your Thinking
After you get over the disappointment, slap a big smile on your face and think about all you accomplished. You tell your inner critic to shut the hell up and you put your streak in perspective. You can’t win all the time, and being all perfectionist and negative about it won’t help.
Focus on the accomplishment and forget the coulda, shoulda, woulda. Be proud and happy that you kept your streak alive as long as you did.
Get Back On That Damn Horse
Don’t worry about winning, and don’t even try to be good. Just get back up on that damn thing. Other people can take a nice long break after a streak. But Manic Impressives need to be back in the saddle as soon as possible. If we lie around in the dirt too long, we’re likely to get distracted and start thinking about starting a worm farm.
Don’t do that. That would be stupid. Get back up on that horse.
You’re not a farmer and worms taste lousy.