A pilot flying is off course 90 percent of the journey. A chef can’t bake a cake without a mess. Halfway through a surgery it looks like there was a murder in the operating room. Everything looks like a failure when you are in the middle.
Do you fear the mess or do you use it?
When you are caught up in the middle of a challenge, where the action is, it can get a little messy. It can look like a failure. Like you missed the mark. Like you made a wrong decision. Like you are beaten.
It’s at this exact point, in the middle of the mess, with failure everywhere you turn, when you have a decision to make.
Are you willing to stay the course?
Here are four steps to take that will help you get out of the mess:
Find new eyes – When you find yourself surrounded by the mess it’s easy and natural to get caught up in thinking you failed. But often that is not the case. Likely you are making progress except you are to close to the action to see the results.
You need to find someone to be your new set of eyes. Find a mentor/coach/trusted friend to talk about the problem with. Share with them the struggles and feelings of frustration. This person will be able to see the whole picture and help you realize that process you are on.
Focus on the process – Another reason we get caught in the mess mindset is because we are focusing solely on the results. We are only focused on the destination. Remember that any challenge or goal is a process, a journey. You don’t instantly teleport to your destination (but how cool would that be.
Realize that there are many steps to getting where you want to go and a few failures might just be part of your journey.
Acknowledge Setbacks – Imagine a hyper, cheesy, motivational speaker. “Be sure to celebrate your failures… They are gifts that you should be grateful to have made.” YUCK! Excuse me while I throw up a little.
On more than one occasion I’ve had people try to tell me to celebrate my failures. Like they are some prize to strive for. That is stupid! Why would anyone celebrate failure?
When was the last time you heard a baseball player being praised for their number of strike-outs? Or a quarterback being happy about how many interceptions they threw.
I do not want to fail.
Yes, failure happens. Just like strike-outs and interceptions. And just like an NFL QB needs to have a short memory when it comes to failure, you should too.
Acknowledge that it happened. You made a mistake. There was a miscalculation. It simply didn’t work.
Recognize it. Admit it. Accept it. Move on.
Break the Cycle – There is a reason for this failure. It may or may not have been directly in your control. Personally, I believe it usually is but has more to do with your earlier choices but that’s a topic for another day.
You can quit. Really…you still want to?
You can try again. Your efforts are heroic…though possibly foolish
You can evaluate, plan, and discover a new way of thinking. Huzzah. Hooray. Nice call.
Failure, while not ideal, does not need to be feared. It happens and now you need to figure out how to get past it.
Break the cycle. Evaluate what happened that led to the failure. Plan on how you can handle it. Learning from your failure is essential. It keeps you from getting stuck in a vicious cycle of non-progress.
Once you create a new strategy it is time to get back in the mess.
Question: What mess do you need to recognize?