Sometimes life throws us curve balls and it’s easy to become frustrated and negative. Here are some tips to maintain a positive mental attitude through all of life’s challenges.
Maintaining a positive attitude is often the small difference between achieving success or not. Most of the time our circumstances boil down to the manner in which we deal with failure. All of us, at some point in our lives, will fail at something – whether it’s a job interview, a relationship, or completing a marathon (more like a half-marathon). Our reactions to these events of so-called failure dictate how successful we are the next time we face a similar experience. In this article I’d like to share my thoughts on why I truly believe there’s no such thing as failure. Rather each time we think we ‘fail’ we are merely getting one step closer to achieving greatness
I’m not entirely sure whether humans are actually hard-wired to avoid failure. But what I do know is that culturally we have come to the general consensus that failure should be avoided and has a hugely negative outcome when it occurs. As a result, we try our very best to avoid anything that resembles a ‘failure’ and feel a great sense of disappointment when it comes our way.
We’ve become too scared to strive for greatness.
From experience, I’ve come to see things totally differently. If you’re petrified to fail, how can you ever get out your comfort zone and try something new? How can you be your best version of yourself when you aren’t willing to acknowledge that you have flaws and areas to improve on?
When we fail we are led to believe that we are incompetent, that we are not good enough to do the job. If we fail a maths test, we simply ‘don’t have a maths brain’. We become too nervous to try new things and don’t back ourselves in case our reputation is dented. Thinking of failure in this light is disastrous to maintaining a positive attitude throughout life’s challenges. Only once we accept that there is actually no such thing as failure, can we really excel at anything.
Learning from Failure
If I could choose one word to remove from the Oxford Dictionary (in fact, the English language) it would be the word ‘failure’. Too often we think of failure as something exclusively negative that results in bad outcomes. To me, failure presents an incredible opportunity to learn from your mistakes so that you don’t make them again and again. When people don’t learn from failure they aren’t able to identify areas that they need to improve on. Culturally, we have not embraced failure as an outcome that can be viewed in a positive light. This mindset often prevents us from having an optimistic approach. The thought here is ‘Why would I be positive and optimistic when the very thing I work hard on failed?’ What’s the point of this type of thinking? You’re dwelling on the past.
Get over it, move on and learn from your mistakes so that the next time you achieve everything you set out to do. Understand exactly what went wrong, so that there’s no chance it can result in failure again.
Think of the airline industry and the ‘Black Boxes’ that are installed into every cockpit. They play a crucial role in all airplanes and the prevention of crashes. This device records pilot conversations and all flight-related data so that in the event of, say, a near crash, an investigation can take place to pinpoint where it went wrong. Once they understand what nearly caused a crash, they produce a report that is publicly available to all airlines and pilots. This reduces the risk of a disastrous event happening, as changes are made following the outcome of the investigation. The airline industry acknowledges that yes, a crash would an extraordinarily negative outcome (a failure of the system as such), but that there is some positive to take from it.
Is that the airline industry fundamentally learns from their mistakes and actually embraces them, even in the face of near disaster. If they never learnt from previous failures then unfortunately crashes would continue to occur again and again. It is no coincidence that flying 35,000 feet above the Earth is the safest form of human transport.[
Maintaining a Positive Attitude
I’m not naïve, I do acknowledge that failing can upset and disappoint people, myself included. It’s only natural to feel dejected when something doesn’t turn out as we wished it would have. I feel down, even just for a moment, when something I’ve worked hard on doesn’t meet my high expectations. Disappointment is an emotion that I find can drive focus and dedication – I try not to dwell on negativity or let it bring me down.
I’m not saying that when you fail you should be happy. Rather, I’m saying that you should keep your chin up and remain determined to succeed, even with the disappointment of a recent failure. Job interviews often go something like this:
No No No No No No No No No No YES!
After what seems like a hundred no’s, you land a job. Every no was a learning curve and one step closer to finally getting that yes.
If you’re unprepared to learn from your mistakes and you continue to dwell in the past, that YES may never come or you may get a job that you don’t enjoy. This same argument applies not only to job interviews, but with most activities in business and life. We all have to recover from setbacks at some or other in our lives.
If you embrace and use failure to your advantage, I can guarantee that you’ll be better off at the end of the day. Being a victim of failure doesn’t help anyone, especially not yourself. There is a very popular saying in Silicon Valley which goes something like this: “Fail early and fail forward”. If the residents of Silicon Valley, some of the brightest minds in the world, have this philosophy to life and business, then there must be some wisdom and merit to it!
Put your adulting pants on
The ways in which we recover from a recent failure ultimately comes down to our attitude. If we view failure as negative then we will do everything in our power to avoid it, to the extent that we often don’t even try something. Changing you attitude towards failure is important if you want to maintain an optimistic approach to life.
Not succeeding at what you set your heart on achieving, time spent daydreaming about and hard work and hours spent working towards – can be soul crushing. The temptation of crawling up in bed, under your covers, and disappearing from reality is real. Give yourself 10 minutes to feel sorry for yourself, and then use those feelings to work even harder and to motivate you to try again, and again, to reach your goal. It’s only failure if you give up, every other time it’s a lesson and learning curve towards achieving your goal.
Some quotes to inspire you:
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill
“Failure is a bruise not a tattoo” – Anonymous
“I failed my exam in some subjects but my friend passed. Now he’s an engineer for Microsoft and I am the owner” – Bill Gates