How To Be Resilient

One of the differentiating characteristics of high performers is the way they react to setbacks and failures. This is important because setbacks and failures will and should happen as the only sure way to avoid them is to stay so far inside your comfort zone that you achieve nothing anyway and that in itself is a failure – a failure to act.  

Setbacks and failures mean we are pushing ahead and they are signposts on the road to victory but they are seldom seen as such. Therefore we will only make progress if we learn to deal with setbacks and failures effectively and not let them become barriers to future action.  

There are only four positive things to do when a setbacks or failure occurs. They are not mutually exclusive – you can do more than one of them. In fact, you can do them all, and you should.

1. Learn

Objectively assess what went wrong. Be easy on yourself. Remember – failure is just a result you didn’t want. It’s not a judgement on you personally. What have you learned? Take this as a positive result – you got some value out of the experience – a piece of learning. It may have been expensive but you bought it so don’t leave it in the shop.

All practical learning comes from action and experience – so you’ve learned something the hard way. Unfortunately, the hard way is often the best way.

I can assure you that my most expensive mistakes will NEVER be repeated, EVER.

2. Kiss It Goodbye

The failure is in the past. You cannot get to it and you cannot change it. Imagine it as a picture floating in the air in front of you. But it’s moving away. It’s getting smaller and smaller until…it’s gone. Make sure you get the learning first, but then just let the image go.

Be determined to NOT let the failure colour your future negatively…that way you have made the failure bigger than it actually is. Don’t empower the failure. Give it the kiss of death.     

3. Recall a Past State

Getting back into a state you have been in previously that gave you success is a very useful technique.

Helpful states include feeling confident, feeling strong, feeling energised, feeling calm. There are many states.

When you want to get back into a particular state, recall a lucid past experience when you felt that state. Make sure you are really plugged into the experience, really “there”, not just thinking about it.

Do this just before you want to regain the previously experienced state.

I often do this sitting in my car outside a potential client’s premises. I imagine the last time a sales meeting went really well. And it really works. It’s like having some kind of superpower.

4. Focus on What You Want.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said something to the effect that she would never attend an anti-war rally, but she would attend a peace rally. The idea is that what you focus on increases. It is futile and counter-productive to focus on what you don’t want. This is something that the protesters at St Paul’s could do with realising.

Focusing on failure will bring failure. Focusing on success might bring success.  


We are conditioned

…to see failure as a terrible, dark horror.

Now, being lazy, shoddy, unfocused and undisciplined is a BAD THING, and you will kick yourself for that, and rightly so. But giving something a damn good shot and not getting the result you wanted is not a BAD THING.

So when you don’t get the result you wanted, don’t box it off and suppress the memory. Do one or more of these four things and you will be managing the setback rather than the setback managing you. This is resilience and resilience is one of the foundations of high performance.

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