Advertising
Advertising

The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation

The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

“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?

Advertising

 

 

 

More by this author

5 Ways to Create Better Ideas No More Overeating! 4 Simple Tips for Controlling Your Diet The 4-Step Process to Overcome Any Weakness The Best Way to Avoid Failure in Any Situation Essential Tools for Tracking Your Training Progress

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next