In our last posting, we focused on ways to embrace failure and use it to foster future success. Another piece of the failure-to-success puzzle is recognizing that much of life is outside of your control. When you don’t succeed at what you try to do, it’s easy to feel like it’s your fault alone. Yet thinking about the reality of reaching goals reveals the fallacy in this way of thinking.
In order to succeed, we need others to help by clearing a path for us. If Michael Jorda’s coaches had not given him the chance to play,he could not have succeeded as a basketball star. If the public doesn’t buy an author’s books, she can’t become a best-seller.
When you experience a career setback, it’s important to look at which factors you were responsible for, and which were beyond your control. In some situations, you may discover that your own actions may have led to success under different circumstances. It might not be accurate to attribute the “failure” to yourself at all.
Knowing that you can only control certain factors can help you decide what to focus on moving forward. If you can identify the factors that were not under your control in a certain situation, then you can work on creating a different scenario where those factors will no longer have the power to stop you.
For example, if you’re being held back at work due to a controlling boss, you can consider various options to seek support from others to help further your goals within your company, or even consider looking for another job. If you’re trying to get a paper published in a professional journal that’s rejected your work, you can try other journals. By changing the players when it comes to forces beyond your control, you may discover that your work that failed in one scenario finds succeeds in another.
Different than Expected
Another consideration when it comes to failure is that sometimes not getting what you thought you wanted leads to something different,or even better. What if Michael Jordan had “succeeded” in getting a job as a used car salesman early in his career, and never became an NBA star? What if “failure” to get a job that you apply for leads you to try a new industry that you love?
Stay open to the idea that what happens to you now is not the end of the story. While you may feel disappointed that certain doors don’t open in your professional life, the fact that they remain closed can help move you toward other opportunities that you might never have tried. One of these opportunities may result in a career direction that you’re better suited for than the one you’d pursued originally.
Creative Tools to Transform Failure
Everyone makes mistakes small and large. Successful people recognize this, and don’t let mistakes of any size derail them for long. A mistake only turns into a failure if you fail to keep moving forward toward your goals.
You can help cultivate the habit of taking mistakes in stride through an exercise in observation. As you go about your workday, make a point to observe instances when you fall short of the mark you’d hoped to reach and notice when others do so, too.
Some examples of daily shortfalls might include:
- Making an error in a comment
- Arriving late for a meeting
- Writing a first draft that didn’t accomplish the goals of the assignment
- Sending an email to a client with a typo in it
This exercise should reveal how often such instances really occur every day, and how others make as many slip-ups as you do. By taking the time to notice mistakes, it’s easier to see that such occurrences need not cause a major setback. They are simply an expected part of life.
Since mistakes happen all the time, the trick is to get back on the horse and not let the feeling of failure stop you for long. Pick yourself up and try again. Success at the task may soon follow.