Friday, June 19, 2009

Failure: the Very Platform for Success (if you wish it so)

We’ve all had them, not just me... days which start slowly and haphazardly and never really recover. On one of these recent days I reflected on what had gone wrong and I was even more surprised as to how much abject failure lay strewn over my memorised landscape.

This particular day began with an atypical lethargy getting out of bed. My eventual arrival early at work went okay but I had limited access to some files I needed. This only cooperated with my already slightly negative disposition.

The day coincided with a major annual audit that I play a key part in. The auditor was antsy about certain things--as auditors are supposed to be--and I wasn’t as naturally willing to assist as I normally would be. So, I failed to be present and graceful enough.

Add to this, my manager came to see me about an irregularity in some figures for an Executive report--you guessed it, my mistake. You know when you get that embarrassingly blinding revelation all of a sudden that you didn’t instruct the person to do the work with a key piece of information... and this piece of information was significant.

In this one, I’d not only let my manager down, and the person delegated to do this work for me, but also my General Manager could have lost face. On a day like this, I took the failure a little more personally. And on a day like this, it is even harder to dignifiedly apologise--but I still did so; to apologise in as dignified a manner as I could.

Later that day, in the evening, we were out at a friend’s house with a bunch of others, and the plague of failure still dwelt with me. If there was a court jester required, you guessed it, it was my turn. And when it came time for me to contribute positively to the discussion, something inside me said, ‘Hold up, this is a risk.’ My confidence had even somewhat deserted me.

My mindset throughout was negative. I expected to fail and so I was almost certain to meet expectation, and every time I did, my subconscious mind would agree, ‘Yep, you’re a failure, Steve; see how this has turned out.’ I felt like a real klutz.

I’m fortunate that hardly anybody, I’m sure, noticed what sort of day I was having.

But, do you know the reality of this? Everybody has these days, and they’re mainly due to a loss of confidence, even for some unknown reason. We doubt ourselves and our negative self-talk runs riot. (For more on ‘unlucky days’ check out my article Relax, Cope Better - Recognise Unlucky Days.)

One thing I have learned to do, however, is to follow-up the ‘failure day’ with a ‘success day’--in this way, I reflect over what I could have done better and I reconcile those facts; hard as that might be. I then have grown accustomed to get over my grief that day so I can start afresh as I wake for the next. I rarely have two poor days in a row now because I have committed myself to learning from my mistakes and to reconciling them in that ‘dirty day’ itself. I do not carry it over into the next day.

Our mental approaches and the life situations we find ourselves in, change markedly from one day to the next. It can therefore only be our problem if we persist with a negative self-perception, or a negative perception of the world around us.

We can say with confidence once we’ve had our ‘allotted’ day of failure, that it is ‘my turn for success,’ to the benefit also of all those around us.

Realistically, on true reflection, not all things went poorly on this day of failure. It only seemed that way. This proves that our self-perceptions--in the moment--can go awry and are not always trustworthy.

And another important thing; if and when we detect things going wrong, if we have the awareness, we should take some sort of cover for the day by doing only what is absolutely necessary, by thinking things through more, and also by seeking counsel from trusted others. We can not only negotiate ourselves through a day like this, we can even turn it around in our favour.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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