12 Ways to Learn the Lesson
Monday June 6, 2011

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“We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes.  We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t.  Success often lies just the other side of failure.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Setbacks, failures, bumps in the road or maybe a seemingly brick wall.  We’ve all dealt with them, we’ve all encountered them, sometimes unexpectedly.  Whether it is a loss of a job, a break-up, wishing and hoping for something only to learn that what we wanted was much further out of reach.

Whatever the scenario is, it can understandably stop us in our tracks and cause us to lose our confidence or question our abilities.

While this initial response is natural, I’d like to share a reframing of our perspective on how to handle any situation that throws us off our game and causes us to re-evaluate.

I truly believe, having been thrown off course more times than I’d like to admit, that such setbacks (I prefer to use this term, as nothing is a failure, unless we refuse to learn from it) are an opportunity in disguise. Here are twelve different ways to handle setbacks and how to frame our thoughts so they don’t knock us completely off course, but instead help us build a stronger foundation from which to reach the success we desire.

1. Setbacks are a part of life

To never have slipped or tumbled is to rob ourselves of the richness of appreciation for when things do succeed.

2. Avoid ultimatums

For example, “If I can’t do this, then I’ll never be successful.” How silly is this?  Don’t become a pity party. In fact, our setbacks are going to be what conditions us to do better the next time around. When something doesn’t work the first time, it is important to realize that this is not a predictor for future attempts. It is all about learning from mistakes, learning the lesson and applying our new found knowledge the next time a similar situation arises.

3. View obstacles as puzzles that are solvable with the right dedication

4. Positive self-talk

Mind over matter. We truly do become what we believe.

5. Be willing to take the risk and accept the outcome (good or bad)

If it doesn’t pan out, it is experience; if it does, wahoo!

6. Experience really is the best teacher

A truly successful coach isn’t someone who has just been introduced to the game. It is after years of viewing, experimenting and observing what works and what doesn’t that molds a coach into someone who can guide their team to success.  The key part of the process is taking the time to evaluate what worked and why, as well as visa versa, so that the same mistakes aren’t made again. I know I would much rather be on the Duke’s men’s basketball team coached by Mike Krzyzewski than on a first time coach’s team who has no experience.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” –Colin Powell

7. Tweak what can be done better

Upon taking a step back and evaluating the setback with an objective vantage point, determine what techniques or approaches have potential, but need to be fine-tuned.

8. Eliminate what isn’t working at all

At the same time, there will be things that need to be eliminated all together. With that same objective vantage point, we must help ourselves out and remove the behavior or decisions that aided in the setback.

9. Strengthen innate talents and become an expert

The most important step is to be able to know what we do well.  We really must focus on our strengths and hone them.  Often times, we assume that others are just as adept in the areas in which we are highly talented, but this usually isn’t the case.  Realizing these particular talents may take some time, but listen to what others compliment you on. What do people repeatedly seem to be in awe of?  These may possibly be areas you want to focus on.

10. Accept responsibility

Not only will we gain respect, but our credibility will increase as others observe how we handle the setback. If we move positively forward and apply what we’ve learned, avoiding the past mistakes, others’ confidence in our ability to persevere in times of difficulty will soar.

11. Never be afraid of failure, as there are benefits

This particular fear can actually act as a motivator to help us do our best. So while unknowingly taking a risk is most likely unadvised, calculated risks can have very positive effects. When we know that we could fail, we can be propelled to heights we might not have known we had.

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” –Sven Goran Eriksson

12. Sooner rather than later, get back on that horse!

As an equestrian rider, there were times when I would get thrown from my horse, but it was imperative to get right back on in order to strengthen the repo ire with my mount and cultivate confidence in each other. The same can be said for setbacks.  If something doesn’t work, don’t waste time stewing.  Instead, take some time to rework your approach, learning from what didn’t work the first time and then as soon as possible, try it again.

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