Some Helpful Truths

A lot of the time, I write about specific techniques you can apply to increase your productivity and success. But this time, I want to focus on some important recognitions that I’d like you to incorporate into your everyday work and life, to improve your overall level of productivity and success.

They include the following:

Occasional Failure is Inevitable

It’s only in the movies that failure is not an option. In real life, no one always succeeds at everything. Even to try for 100% success would require that you avoid real challenges and never test yourself to find your limits. In fact, this approach is itself a kind of failure: the failure to become your best.

Rather than trying to avoid failure, the better strategy is to steadily assess your strengths and abilities, regularly make efforts to expand your capabilities, and routinely apply yourself to tasks, projects, and goals you’ve never tried before. In this way, you will work toward expanding your boundaries, and you will stay on the path toward realizing your full potential.

Part and parcel of this approach is an occasional failure. You will inevitably try for goals that are beyond your capabilities. You will sometimes encounter bad luck and difficulties that make success impossible for anyone. You will sporadically experience “off” days and other performance issues that leave your results short of your expectations and desires.

That’s life.

The trick is not to let the occasional failure devastate you. Just take the setback as another life lesson, part of the “seasoning” we all experience that helps us mature, and try again.

Resilience Is the Best Form of Strength

It’s great to have talent, knowledge, skill and experience. It’s even better to have resilience.

Resilience is the flexibility and determination to reach our goals, despite obstacles and the occasional failure. It’s the strength – not so much to carry a huge weight – but to rebound from setbacks with renewed energy and optimism.

Whether or not you’re born with a lot of resilience, it’s a character trait you can certainly develop, as if it were a muscle. To build up your resilience, try reacting to obstacles, unsatisfactory outcomes, and outright failures as follows:

  • Reframe the setback as a growth or learning opportunity. Instead of focusing on the forces that overcame you, try to identify anything you did that contributed to your lack of success. Consider how you can try different actions next time.
  • Shine a light on your own inadequacies and fears that may have sapped your confidence. Naming these personal issues and thinking about how they developed in you will greatly weaken their ability to hold you back.
  • Forgive yourself and others for any traits that contributed to the setback. In particular, treat yourself with as much warmth and kindness as you would a good friend or loved one with the same issues.

It’s not so terrible that life has knocked you off your feet. It’s wonderful when you get back up and try again.  

Learn and Know Your Worth

I’ve written before about the internal barriers that hold people back from success. Many of these limits derive from a shortage of self-esteem.

For a variety of reasons, many people fail to give themselves full credit for their obvious talent, skills, and knowledge. This is in many ways a tragedy, encapsulated in lyrics from the Eagles’ song Already Gone:

“So often times it happens / that we live our lives in chains / and we never even know we have the key.”

To avoid this, you can and should cultivate an accurate assessment of your value in the world. You can start by utilizing such tactics as:

  • Regularly reviewing your track record of efforts and accomplishments.
  • Giving yourself at least as much respect and credit as you receive from people you care about.
  • Identifying your errors and shortcomings, then systematically working to improve on them.
  • Asking for fair treatment from others when it’s not immediately offered.

Avoid Unwarranted Comparisons

We live in a world where so many people seem to be more successful and happier than we are. But most of these comparisons are unwarranted and just plain wrongheaded.

Despite how things may seem on social media and elsewhere, surface comparisons regarding looks, fame, fortune, and influence are not among a person’s most important attributes, not do they absolutely determine how happy a person feels. No matter how it may seem, everyone struggles to overcome inner problems and external difficulties.

The only comparison that really matters is how you stack up against how you were in earlier days. It’s important for you to recognize that as long as you are making progress in directions that you feel are important, you’re on the right track and probably doing well.  

I believe that recognizing and accepting these four simple but powerful ideas will help you weather the difficulties and capitalize on the opportunities you’re inevitably going to encounter as you make your way through life.

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