Monday, October 14, 2013

Obsessing About Failure

There are people who obsess about missed opportunities or being bested by others. They spend hours, even weeks, replaying what had happened, wondering what went wrong and figuring out why they weren't successful. They do this to the point they get emotionally drained.

Obsessing about failure is different from an honest, realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. When people experience setbacks, it's always helpful to find out what could have been done differently and how to do better next time. Failure is nothing but feedback; just the universe’s way of telling us that something needs tweaking.

The winning attitude is to keep moving forward--- creating version 2.0 from version 1.0. And if you fail again, the next day is simply an opportunity to come up with version 3.0. The goal is to keep improving. People who tend to obsess about failure have probably internalized the “failure message." Psychologist Martin Seligman coined the term “learned helplessness” to describe the phenomenon of people believing they have no control over things that happen to them that, at the end of the day, any effort to change situations for are futile.

 Learned helplessness develops from the attitude that failure is:

(a) permanent ("I will never get that break again!"),

(b) pervasive ("Since I'm a failure at this job, I will fail at that one too!"), and

(c) personal ("I alone am to blame forthis failure!").

As the term implies, learned helplessness is, well, learned. It's not originally part of your personality. You can probably trace it's origins to an experience. Perhaps you received the “you're not good enough” message during childhood. Or maybe there was a project you worked hard on, a project that went badly.

The good news is, while obsessing about failure is learned, it can be unlearned.Underneath it all is a fear, a fear to make a risk. It's more comfortable to toss and turn what happened in the past than to try again and risk failing once more. But see, if you get stuck in the fear zone, you’ll fulfill your prophecy. The attitude of overly-scrutinizing mistakes means you'll lose sight of new opportunities. And stuckness, well, it's never good.

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