Many years ago, as a fledgling Chemistry teacher, I opened the textbook for the first time and read a simple, yet substantial, statement on the fly leaf. Before the very first word about the subject was the most important thing the book would say. The words read:
Nothing fails like failure. Nothing succeeds like success.
As a psychologist, I can say without hesitation that these words are the Rosetta Stone of success in business, marriage, the pursuit of arts or a craft, and life in general.
When you fail, regardless of what motivators tell you, the first impulse for most people is not to pick oneself up by the bootstraps and do it again; it's to stop and avoid the sting of failure and stay as far from that activity as possible. Usually, after a little while, when the pain of defeat has subsided, many will give it another shot. But repeated failure usually eventuates in cessation of the activity, and sometimes that's not all bad. We are hard-wired to evaluate our activities and do more of what works and less of what does not. It really is a fruitless waste of time to continue your best efforts with something that will never yield your desired result.
There, of course, is the problem of deciding what is smart for you to relentlessly pursue and what makes better sense to drop like a hot potato. This column is not about making that decision; rather, it's about what to do once that decision is made and the road to success is fraught with failures along the way. In other words, what can you do to keep yourself motivated to move through your moments of failure as you move along that path to your ultimate success?
The first thing to do is realize that most motivational speakers are not very well grounded in the psychology of what they do. They give a good speech, which certainly motivates you to do something, but often lacks a plan of action which includes what to do when you fail. After all, as the motivators say, "failure is not an option." But as we all know, failure, while being an option we may never willingly, or knowingly, choose is more than an option. It is an inevitability. And telling others to simply suck it up and keep moving is more easily screamed from a stage than it is to do in the privacy of your own mind.
The problem with their exhortations is that when you do face failure, their words ring in your head and you begin to doubt your own abilities rather than the plan or pursuit. Over and over, many motivators will tell you that countless others have "done it", therefore so can you. When it does not happen, it is very difficult not to look at yourself and ask "what's wrong with me?"
For more help with this, see my Naked Thinking
As a motivational styled speaker myself, and psychologist, I want to make it very clear that it is important to continuously monitor what you're doing and evaluate both your plan and your execution. But, the intent is to find ways to improve both, not find fault or a source of self-derision. Derision is rarely a good source of motivation for anyone whether it's from a coach, parent, boss or your own inner voice. Objective self-evaluation, on the other hand, is an important component for both motivation to continue and self improvement.
But what can you do to keep yourself going when all you meet is one obstacle after another and little positive result from your efforts? How can you make yourself stay focused on yet another attempt at placing one foot in front of the other? Remember, "Nothing fails like failure", so, if you have yet to reach your desired outcome, or, even any of the intermediate goals that will get you there, how can you keep these setbacks from completely snuffing out your last remaining ember of the flame that once burned inside you? The answer may be as simple as cooking.
You may think this is silly, and if I were to recommend that you take up cooking to reach your goals as a movie star or franchise owner, it would be silly indeed. Cooking is, however, an excellent example of an activity you can use to create instant successes. It's a well defined project that takes anywhere from a few minutes to days to complete. It has a beginning, a purpose, a plan, a production, a performance and an immediate feedback for success. Many other extra-curricular activities afford the same kind of stimulating elements as well.
Playing a sport such as golf allows a person to begin and end a project within a few hours. Each hole is a challenge. Each time you get better even a small bit, as from hole to hole, you can gain an immediate sense of improvement and accomplishment. Team events such as soccer, football, softball, etc. all have similar elements. Some people may use shopping as a way to simulate a project that has an immediate income with a sense of accomplishment hidden in it.
This feeling of accomplishment and the sense of confidence it can induce, is referred to as self-efficiency in psychology. The more experiences you have that can increase your self-efficiency, the greater your ability to withstand other defeats becomes. There are two dangers, however. The first is that you may gain so much of that sense of self-efficiency or esteem, that you become almost addicted to that activity and it takes over other parts of your life. You may find yourself going back to whatever you did that wave you these feelings again and again while neglecting other things, including what you've set out as your ultimate goals. (This is often, and incorrectly referred to as an addiction as in becoming a sports addict or shop-a-holic.
The other danger is that the activity can be self-defeating in itself. For example, if you like interfering in other people's lives, setting others up for mischief, buying things you do not really need, starting projects you'll never finish, or becoming so self-satisfied that you're no longer yearn for other goals, hobbies and the like can actually stall your efforts.
So what do you do? When life is handing you one big "no" after another look for a way to create a smaller project completely unrelated to your other goals that you can tackle, complete, and find a sense of accomplish with. Some examples may include: painting or drawing, photography to the point of creating a finished wall hanging, throwing a dinner party and doing all the work, taking up a new sport or musical instrument and preparing for a game or recital. Other ideas could include planning and throwing a reunion or other social event, or building something in or around the house. When you're done, bask in the glow of a very important fact: you really can make a decision, plan it out, execute it and accomplish your goals. And by remembering yourself of that when you are rejected and dejected, you will find that extra little "something" within yourself we call motivation.
Source by Phil D'Agostino