All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just over a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses.” I’d like to revisit and expand on this idea.
You will read in many business and entrepreneurial publications, and hear many “motivational” speakers use phrases like “fail fast,” “don’t be afraid to fail,” “failure is an opportunity to grow,” and “our mistakes are our best teachers.”
I am reasonably sure that the writers and speakers of these phrases mean well. The problem is they are just WRONG!
I mean, really, what exactly do we learn from our mistakes?
You certainly learned that whatever it is you attempted did not work. I’ll grant you that. But did you really learn anything that can help you do it right the next time? Maybe… It depends on knowing what works, not what does not work.
Success breeds success! We move forward in life through a series of victories, using one victory to spur us on to more victories. You will have setbacks in life, to be sure, but it is the successes that keep us motivated to get up again when we fall!
As a Life Coach, writer, and speaker, my goal is to help you succeed at reaching your goals and desired outcomes. The best way for me to do this is to point out the things you are doing well and show you how, by making an adjustment to a behavior or thought, you can do that thing better! No coach ever gets someone to improve their game by focusing on the failures.
Have you ever taught a teenager how to drive a car? In my experience with this, there is no faster way to frustrate and demotivate a teenager than to point out the things he is doing wrong. Sure, mistakes are made, but it is best to, initially, let those pass. You show him the correct way to do something, have him try it, celebrate what he did right and then mention a different way of trying it so it goes even better next time! Acknowledging and celebrating success creates an atmosphere that fosters more success!
It is always better to set yourself, and others, up for success by focusing on what you want, rather than what you don’t want. If you tell a child “don’t drop this expensive vase!” you have focused on the negative outcome and should not be upset if that is exactly what you get! Telling the child “please carry this very carefully”—said with a nod and a reassuring smile—tells her what you want. When she successfully carries the crystal vase to the kitchen, celebrate and reinforce the success by saying “Great job! I knew you could do it! You’re such a great helper!” She will learn from that success, feel more self-confidence, and use that positive experience in other areas of her life.
Always speak to yourself about what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of thinking “don’t say the wrong thing to her,” try thinking “I am confident and I am going to say exactly the right thing so that…” This sets you in the right mindset to get your desired outcome!
I encourage everyone I work with to keep a victory log. Throughout the day, simply jot down notes to yourself about all of your victories, no matter how small or trivial. “I got out of bed and got dressed this morning,” “I stayed calm during my drive, despite the traffic jam,” “I smiled and said ‘good morning’ to a stranger,” “my family loved the new dinner recipe!” are all great examples of daily victories. At the end of your day, do a mental review of your day and write down all of the things you did well, made you happy, or made someone else happy. Let these be the thoughts you have in your head as you go to sleep at night!
At the end of each week, and again at the end of each month, look through your victory log. You will be amazed at how many successes you have had and how abundant your life is with big and small victories. This will motivate you to look for and, more importantly, create more victories by learning from what has worked for you.
Success, not failure, is the greatest teacher and motivator! Wherever and whenever possible, set yourself up for success!
~ You may also like to hear me speak in more detail about this topic in my “Life Is A Marathon” podcast.
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