Is there anything that feels better than winning? 87 billion dollars spent last year on lottery tickets and sporting events in the US alone, suggests we don’t think so.
They say you learn more from losing than you do from winning, but that doesn’t matter; it’s more fun to win, so we’d all choose to win every time even if we never learned a thing. That’s just how we’re wired, and although we know – or soon figure out – that only the real winner gets the gold, so everyone ends up being a loser most of the time, we should be used to it, but that’s not how we’re wired. Rather than accepting the fact that failure is part of life, and the pathway to achievement, we often want to raise the white flag or just check out and stop trying so we can avoid the pain, disappointment, or perhaps embarrassment, of failing yet again.
The main problem with that is that it’s not a workable solution. Life involves trying and failing and trying again. None of us would have learned how to feed ourselves, or tie our shoes, or go to the bathroom on our own, for Pete’s sake, if it weren’t for having tried, failed, and tried some more.
The pain that we go through in failure/loss is real though, so most everyone has had periods of time where they’ve ‘checked out’ mentally, physically, or emotionally, with an excuse like,“It can’t be done.” or “Someone like me could never do that.” or “Even if I could have done it at one time, I can’t do it now.”, etc., etc.. The important thing to note here, however, is that even if such excuses were 100% correct (they seldom are), doing nothing would still do absolutely nothing to make our situations better. The only thing that makes our situation better is doing something to bring about positive change.
Some people seem to do this more readily than others – i.e. they seem to have just naturally adopted the truth that failure is part of life, and if that’s you, good for you, because you’re way down the road ahead of most people in finding a successful way of doing life. For most, however, we fall somewhat short of that and so you see people all the time that are basically languishing on the vine over this, that, or the other, condition which seems to have been their undoing. In all reality, it may really stink whatever it is that has happened, and you may truly have taken a hit that has set you back a long way, but at this point, generally speaking, whatever it is that’s happened is not what’s causing the biggest roadblock to your forward progress. Our biggest roadblock is always our response to our circumstances.
I’m not a professional counselor, psychotherapist, or doctor, so I don’t pretend to know the perfect path to physical, emotional, or psychological health or healing, but I have had my share of failures in life and I’m well acquainted with my own path to overcoming, and so that’s what I’m sharing with you today.
Step# 1 – Be brave.
People may think of different things when it comes to the idea of bravery, but the first step is to be brave enough to accept the reality of my current situation – regardless of how grim it might be. Whether (like me) you’ve lost a job, or (like me) been through a divorce, or (like me) put on some weight you can’t seem to get rid of (I could go on, but why make us both depressed, right?), there is some negative situation you’re facing, and so you must come to terms with that reality. As long as you’re still just pretending or trying to ‘wish it away’, very little can be done to help your situation, but if you will face facts, you can begin to do something different that can help.
PS: If you haven’t yet realized this, the situation can ALWAYS get worse, and if you don’t do something to begin to effect positive change, it will. That’s just how things work.
Step# 2 – Make a decision to change things.
The next step is to make a decision to begin a process of change: Change is a process, not a destination, and once we recognize that, it gets easier putting together a strategy that works. Look down the road, plot a course and begin to set sail in a direction where the wind is at your back and the sun’s on your face, so to speak, rather than where you’re needing to fight for every inch of distance covered.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve struggled with shedding some unwanted pounds for years. The reality of your situation is that despite your efforts, what you have been trying has not worked. That is your reality, so you’ve now ‘owned’ that, but the next step is making the decision to begin the process of changing it.
Just because that is your current reality, there is absolutely nothing that says that must be your reality forever. In fact, I fully believe that half of the battle of getting to a new, better, place in life has everything to do with coming to grips with your current lack of success and growing so dissatisfied with it, that it serves as a motivator to help you find the courage, chutzpah, or whatever you want to call it, to do something to change things. My son once received a message in a fortune cookie that said, “You’re in the driver’s seat of your life.” which I loved hearing, because there is just so much truth to it. In so many respects, we’re all in the driver’s seat of our lives and have so much more ability to impact our situation than we know or perhaps want to acknowledge. Acknowledging we have a significant role to play in our own success (and failure) is tough, because it puts the weight square on our own shoulders. It’s so much easier to blame someone else, or the situation, as the thing that holds us back, but again, that doesn’t do a thing to help improve things.
Whatever you face right now, the truth is that life did not kick you in the teeth just to sit back and to laugh at your pain. It didn’t. If you caused the mess you’re in, life has actually been trying to get your attention for a while, to teach you to do things differently. It may have just taken this long to get your attention, or if the situation has come into your life truly through no fault of your own, then it’s working to help motivate you to lift up your eyes and recognize there is a better way.
Step# 3 – Work at it.
You won’t be able to change everything you want changed overnight, but you can decide overnight to get on the path that leads toward positive change.
Let’s say the loss you’ve suffered is a job, and so you’re faced with having to find something else to do. At this stage in many of our lives, it’s super intimating to think of having to start again, but if you’ve owned your reality and have recognized the only way you’ll ever get to a place you like better, is for you to do something different, you’re just not sure yet what that is, my advice is to look around at what you see that needs doing and start there. It doesn’t necessarily have to turn into a lifetime career; it could just be a stepping stone, but if you do your best and work with excellence, you’ll find other opportunities will also arise. That’s just how things work.
Lets say you decide to try something and you fail it it, or are not as successful as you’d hoped to be. It’s not a shame. It’s only a shame to sit around squandering your ability to make a contribution to the world by refusing to even try.
Maybe your situation is that you’re pretty good at lots of things and feel you could jump off in many directions but you’d really like to do something great. If that’s you, awesome. Go for it! Stretch your wings and try to fly. You may succeed beyond your wildest dreams, but even if you don’t, don’t let that deter you from trying to stretch for greater things. We seldom succeed perfectly the first time around, and the only thing that’s a guarantee here, is that if you never try, you’re guaranteed to not succeed.
Thomas Edison was a great example of how to keep stretching ourselves but also for how to keep on working at it. In his 84 years, he not only acquired a record 1,093 patents (singly or jointly) he also reportedly failed 10,000 times before finally succeeding in inventing an incandescent light bulb that worked. Many of us can relate to the failure part of his story, we just don’t have much experience with the other essential character trait he seemed to so embody – that of continuing to work at it until we succeed.
Trying and failing is how we learn and grow, and some of us have failed enough by now that we’re like Edison was that day when he got the light bulb to work – we’re just one step away from making history by helping others finally see the light.