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7 Practical Steps to Turn Around a Bad Experience

7 Practical Steps to Turn Around a Bad Experience
Face

Failure sucks. But if your planning on doing anything important you are going to have to get used to it. Embarrassment, frustration and even bad situations you can’t control are going to be part of life. What can you actually do about them instead of just having a “positive attitude?”

I definitely haven’t reached the pinnacle of human enlightenment. So I can’t boast that harsh criticisms, the accidental blunder or bad experience never get to me. But I’d like to offer the practical steps I take to move past it.

1) Find a Meaning

Ask yourself how you can use the bad experience. Victor Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, found meaning in his suffering while in a Nazi concentration camp. Here are some ways you can find a meaning in your situation to move past it:

  • What has it taught you?
  • Has it made you stronger/kinder/wiser?
  • Even simply enduring a bad moment has meaning in making your happy moments better.

2) Keep a Failure Log

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Keep track of any failures, embarrassments or blunders. Using a failure log you can give yourself a little checkmark of accomplishment. It may seem odd to reward failures in this way, but rewarding your failures serves two main purposes:

  1. It makes you more willing to take chances when the only risk is to your pride.
  2. It causes you to focus more on learning and growth than external recognition.

I’ve even heard from other people that if they don’t have at least a few major failures each year, they don’t believe they were trying hard enough.

3) Find a New Goal

Don’t dwell in the past. The best way to get out of a rut is to start building momentum again. Get a new goal or pursuit. A new challenge will get you to stop thinking about your failure and get you to focus on something positive. A new goal will also give the opportunity for future successes instead of dwelling on a current stumble.

4) Remove Chronic Sources of Stress

You ability to handle big stresses depends on how well you handle the little ones. If your life is constantly driving you crazy, you need to reconstruct it to better handle stress. There are already many resources on handling stress, but here are a few quick tips:

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  1. Keep your energy high by staying in shape.
  2. Fire people from your life who are a source of chronic negativity.
  3. Find outlets for your stress that help you recover instead of intensifying the frustration.

5) Build a Support Base

Building a support base of colleagues and mentors will help you when times are rough. This is definitely a situation where you need to prepare in advance. Even if you aren’t having to deal with a particularly difficult situation right now, you might need some reinforcement in the future.

Have the right peers and mentors who will encourage you past your mistakes. Here are some tips for attracting the right people into your life:

  • You give what you get. Be extra attuned to the needs of your friends and they will do the same.
  • Join Toastmasters. I’m a Toastmaster and I can’t say enough about the great people I’ve met there. No large group will be consistently good, so you might need to try one or two clubs. But overwhelmingly, I’ve found Toastmasters to be a great place to make positive connections.
  • Spend less time on negative people. If you can’t eliminate them entirely, reduce your interactions so you can focus more on better relationships.

6) Be Humble

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A sense of humility and humor can keep you moving forward when things are tough. I’m not a follower that says overwhelming confidence is the approach to success. Being humble in your abilities but confident in your chances to grow will let you shrug off failures. I never would have stuck to blogging unless I had cultivated the humility that told me it would be a lot of hard work.

Humility doesn’t necessarily mean you have low self-esteem. It just means you are focused more on doing things without expecting immediate success.

Many Eastern philosophies emphasize goalless action. This doesn’t mean that you should not strive for anything, but that you should detach yourself from the outcome. If you win, great. If you lose, then you are one step closer.

7) Stop Analyzing and Start Doing Something New

There is a maximum limit to how much you can learn from an experience. That limit is actually fairly small with an isolated incident. If you give one speech and it fails, you might be able to learn one or two points of improvement. That’s it. Anything you “learn” after this threshold is just speculation which is often incorrect.

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I’ve seen people in failed relationships, goals that went sour or broken commitments, try to learn everything from just one failure. Unfortunately, the only way you can learn isn’t just to fail once but to fail dozens of times. Trying to scoop up too much information on a bad situation just leaves you feeling miserable with the false sensation that you are accomplishing something useful.

After you’ve gathered a couple learning points, stop. Start doing something new. Pick out a new goal and move forward. After all, isn’t that what failures are for? To give you a small learning point and direct you towards bigger and better things?

More by this author

Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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