Last week in my first post, I committed to publishing a post every Monday for the next 3 months. I don’t mind admitting that this is a huge goal for me. In fact, it is quite scary! I have never considered myself a writer. I was competent at many subjects in school, but I did not enjoy English class. In high school, I was even less enthusiastic about speaking in public than I was about writing. During the reading of a play in class one day, another student read a line with very little feeling. My English teacher proceeded to ask if he had been to the “Mark Maenche school of acting”. Thankfully, that experience did not scar me for life! I think it is safe to say that I failed at acting!
Just like my acting in high school, failure to write a post each week is a real option. I am not at all convinced I can share a new post that will be meaningful, inspirational, or even helpful. As I begin to walk out this journey, there are emotions within me that cause me to hesitate. I am afraid of failing. I am fearful of what others will think of me if I do not reach my goal. When I stop to think critically about listening to the fears that try to stop me, I am challenged. Is there a different mindset I could adopt? Is there another way to respond? How do I rise above the fear to keep moving forward?
I posit that there are at least four ways to deal with the emotions surrounding failure:
1. Deal with the fear
Before I even begin to put myself in a position to fail, I have to confront my fear. What happens if I choose not to commit myself to starting a blog? What if I do not post every week? Well, nothing! Precisely! I have come to the point where that is no longer an option. I want to make something happen. I want to move towards my dreams. If I do not do this, I am going to continue to sit around and talk about accomplishing something. Talk is cheap. The cost of inaction has now exceeded the perceived benefit of safety that fear offers me.
I heard a quote from Michael Hyatt recently. He said “Whenever I let fear do the talking, hope always loses the argument.” It is critical that I not listen to fear. Fear will only cause me to stand still. Hope is a powerful emotion that will buoy my spirit and keep my dreams alive.
2. Stay positive
Research suggests that optimism can improve the immune system. It also suggests optimism can help people cope with unfortunate news. Having an optimistic outcome is linked to longer life as well. (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/)
A researcher at the University of North Carolina studied the effects of thinking patterns. This study found that negative emotions narrow focus and cause one to see fewer options. Positive emotions cause people to raise their eyes above the path immediately in front of them. Joy, contentment, and love help people to see the larger picture. The mind becomes open to more possibilities. The authors of the study found that positive emotions enhance the ability to build new skills. (http://jamesclear.com/positive-thinking)
No matter the situation, I always have the choice to choose my attitude. John Maxwell says that “Your attitude toward failure determines your altitude after failure”. A negative attitude begins a spiral towards defeat and depression. A positive attitude helps one continue to stay connected to a desirable reality.
3. Failure is not a road block but a stepping stone
I have learned I can use failure as an experience to improve myself. Through participation in Toastmasters, I found the more I did something the better I was able to do it. Each time I gave a speech, a stepping stone to improve as a speaker presented itself. The speech evaluator pointed out ways I failed but then made suggestions for improvement. It was not a road block to becoming a better speaker. No! It was an opportunity to work at improving.
I have heard Dave Ramsey say that “success is just a pile of failures that you are standing on top of”. This points the way to another aspect of failure helping me to step up a level. Climbing to the top of this pile will develop my character. In life I am bound to experience disappointment and difficulty. Through these events, I can grow my resolve and integrity to remain true to who I am. The abrasiveness of life’s events sharpens my character.
4. Envision the future – but be willing to embrace a variation of it
How can one lay aside feelings of inadequacy? One of the best motivators is to have a clear picture in mind of the desired future. When I can begin to see where I want to end up, I am more likely to resolve to get there. The old adage that “if you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it every time” is true. The archer cannot hit the target without first raising the bow and aiming at the target.
Once I have an idea of where I want to go and begin to move in that direction, I have to be willing to “go with the flow.” Life may not always take me exactly where I thought it would when I start the journey. As I raft down the river of life, I may well find myself navigating a different stream than I first anticipated. I can embrace this new direction or struggle and try to paddle upstream against the current.The abrasiveness of life's events sharpens my character. Click To Tweet
Dealing with failure is something that is a part of life. The sooner I learn how to embrace and learn from it, the closer I will be to overcoming the obstacles that stand in my way. How about you? What lessons have you learned about dealing with failure?
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