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The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation

The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation
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It’s widely recognized that most people hate to fail. People, maybe yourself included, hate failing to such an extent that they give up trying—after all, if you don’t try, you cannot fail, and if you don’t fail, you don’t have to deal with the negative emotions connected to failure. In the end you end up in your own dark corner of the world, but at least you haven’t failed at anything. Does it have to be like this? What if I could give you an injection that would ensure that you’ll never suffer a catastrophic failure again? I bet you’re already rolling up your sleeve. Stay with me and I will tell you how to give yourself that very booster shot.

Scenario #1:

You’re up in front of the board, giving the presentation of your life, and you have everyone in the palm of your hand. Everything you say resonates with them, and you are in control. Suddenly somebody spills a glass of water and shouts out just as you are about to make THE statement. Your mind goes blank, you skip two slides without noticing it, nobody understands what you are saying and what was supposed to be your triumph ends in total failure.

Scenario #2:

You’re onstage for the first time, and you’re playing your heart out, putting every emotion you have into every note and they come out beautifully. Suddenly there is a sharp tone in everyone’s ears—the dreaded feedback. The sound guy does a good job of killing it and it dies out, but you have forgotten where you are in the song, so you freeze; no more tones come out. Your moment of glory turns to dust.

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Have you experienced something like this?

The things that are present in both scenarios are quite common, but don’t always end in failure. Unexpected things don’t always happen or throw you off. The thing that went wrong in the two examples given is not that something unexpected or unpleasant happened, but that there was no preparation for it. You didn’t practice failing! Read that again, “practice failing”, aka failing with grace.

Practice Failing?

Isn’t failure what we are trying to avoid? Well, yes, but in order to avoid failure, we have to take the possibility of failure and unexpected events into account. You need to know what to do when something goes wrong! If you prepare in a vacuum you can only truly succeed in a vacuum.

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With the first scenario, when you’re preparing a presentation, make sure you can start (or restart) it from any slide. Figure out answers to all difficult questions beforehand, and run through the presentation with the radio in the background so you know you can stay on track amid distractions Figure out what can go wrong and have a plan! That is failing with grace, because when turbulence strikes it will not seem like failure at all.

The second example could be handled this way: learn the song even more fluidly, practice starting it in the middle, and figure out a nice little phrase you can play as backup when you don’t know where you are. Place a friend in the audience who knows the song and can direct you if you get lost. Above all else, never stop playing! Nobody knows what you are about to play, so just act as is everything is happening exactly as you expected, and enjoy yourself.

Conclusion
Ultimately, failing with grace comes down to preparation, and the more often you practice this, the less often disaster will strike. On the off chance that it does, it will becomesa learning experience as well. I promise.

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“The only real failure is the one from which we learn nothing.” ― Henry Ford

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is this: the next time you prepare for something—a presentation, a show or an interview—put these ideas into practice and prepare even more. Figure out what can go wrong beforehand, and make plans how to deal with each scenario.

What do you do to handle failures?

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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