Would you like to explore a question that will help to identify how optimistic, success-oriented, and likely to succeed you are? If so, then notice what you immediately think when you hear the following question? What immediately pops into your mind?
If something goes wrong as your working on a project, or with a team, or on a highly critical objective, which would you prefer—to discover that what went wrong was something in your area or something external to yourself?
Now, I have to admit that this is a test question as you will soon discover. The trick to it will show why the preferred answer is counter-intuitive to how most of us think and how we have been trained to think. It also goes against how most of us are oriented in life— we are oriented to move away from a positive feeling and attitude about failure, failing, making mistakes, messing up, flobing it, or welcoming errors. I mean, really, who wants that? Yet, this is the paradox. It is by entering into this “dark” side of things, welcoming this shadow, and kissing this dragon that we actually take some powerful steps to greater success. How in the world does this work?
This counter-intuitive response involves numerous powerful frames of mind that put us into the very best states for ongoing development, unleashing new potentials, and using every experience for accelerating our learning. The paradox begins on the level of acceptance. Acceptance is the ability to look reality in the face without caving in. We call this ego-strength. This is the strength of mind and person (sense of self) to welcome reality for whatever it is for the purpose of analyzing it and figuring out how best to cope with it.
The paradox also goes right to the heart of responsibility, of taking and owning responsibility for one’s life. It was Martin Seligman who discovered in his study of helplessness and optimism that when optimists experienced failure, they typically attributed their failure to something they did or did not do. They looked at their actions, words, relationships, and actions. This attitude in the face of failure is what enables them to take the next step, namely, “If I caused it, I can correct this.” And that’s where the power of persistent success lies. It lies in ownership of responsibility.
Conversely, those who deny any responsibility, who fear failure and mistakes, who dread being wrong more than anything move into denial, cover-up, projection, rationalization, and all of the other defense mechanisms. Yet these protective maneuvers actually reveal the person’s inner insecurity and lack of ego-strength. So while the person is investing mind and emotion into defensiveness, the person fully at peace with his or her fallibility is looking those failed attempts directly in the face and harvesting learnings and wisdom. This puts that person miles ahead in moving toward his or her goals.
Doesn’t this completely reframe failure, errors, and mess ups? Welcoming them enables us to learn from them more efficiently and so accelerates our development. And by seeing opportunities for wisdom in every action that didn’t complete or get the results we wanted, we embrace the failure as a rare and unprecedented opportunity to learn something critically important.
So, why do optimists fare better than pessimists? They operate from the frame or inner game of taking full ownership for their performances. This saves them the time, energy, and negative states caused by whining, complaining, blaming, fearing failure, dreading being wrong, etc. They don’t have either the time for that or the disposition.
Whining about conditions over which we have no control is not only counter-productive, but actually creates, feeds, and nurtures one of the most self-sabotaging frames of all, the victimization frame. This creates a defeatist view of the world and of life that leads nowhere. People who play that inner game then stop trying, stop working, stop learning, they become negative and they get into a negative mood of, “Why try?” It is this frame of mind that does the most damage to them.
So the next time something goes wrong, I’d heartily recommend that you use the kind of inner self-talk that optimists use, to immediately go inside and say to yourself,
“I hope it was my fault!”
“I hope it was my failure; then I will get some top-quality feedback for fabulous discoveries and new found wisdom.”
“I take total responsibility for the outcomes and results that I’m getting.”
One of the key secrets to success is that when you get knocked down, be sure to land on your feet! Such resilience will enable you to stay focused on the most critical elements of all, namely, what you can do to obtain more and more efficient results. Along these lines it has been that “The best defense against unfair workplace treatment is performance, is being able to perform better and more effectively.”
Co Author - L. Michael Hall, Ph.D
Michael is a developer, researcher, coach, NLP and NS trainer and prolific author in the Cognitive Sciences
having developed the most cutting-edge new concepts in NLP and Nuero-Semantics today, the Meta-States Model, Matrix Model, and co-developed the Axes of Change Model.
Michael co-founded the International Society of Neuro-Semantics and The Meta-CoachTM Foundation
(MCF). Michael is the Academic Director and Researcher for the Meta Coach Foundation and has authored and published more than 30 books on NLP to date. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.neurosemantics.com