Life is full of ups and downs and sometimes has a few sideways thrown in too. When things go wrong or don’t go as planned, or when something happens to throw us off balance and doubt ourselves it can be tough to deal with. After all, we all want things to go well and to end up as ‘winners’. But life will always throw challenges at us, and we can’t control everything. Nor should we try. It’s not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you that makes the difference. Here are three easy ways that you can always come out on top.
1. Focus on Your Strengths
We’re a bunch of contradictions – sorry to break it to you. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad; sometimes hopeful, sometimes pessimistic; sometimes childish and sometimes mature. We also have a whole load of strengths and weaknesses that affect what we do and how we do it, but tend to put more focus on our weaknesses and not our strengths.
A strength is something that you do consistently well or at a near-perfect level of performance – it’s something you’re just able to do, you’re hard-wired to do it well and you get an inherent satisfaction from doing it. It could be tackling and solving complex problems, empathising with people, having a lively imagination or being able to make the perfect omelette.
Focusing on what you do well rather than what you’re not so good at makes all kinds of sense. When you look at what you’re not good at you feel bad about yourself and your ability, but when you focus on and play to your strengths you’re guaranteed to get results, and can even eliminate any negative effect your weaknesses might have.
There was a guy I worked with who hated public speaking and recognised that it was one of his weaknesses. He worked as an advertising executive and as he climbed the ladder he found he had to do more and more presentations – he’d stutter, freeze, forget his point and not perform at his best at all. But when we focused on his strengths we found that he had amazing social skills, an ability to establish great rapport with people in no time at all and had a fantastic sense of humour. Using those strengths he was able to connect easily with each person in his audience, enjoy himself a whole lot more and to deliver presentations that had fun, humour and warmth in them. He used his strengths to overwhelm his weaknesses and went from strength to strength himself.
2. Set Things Up Ahead Of Time
Sure, there will be times when you can just head into something, do brilliantly at it and get the result you were hoping for (normally if you’re playing to your strengths), but other times you might blunder forwards, wing it and not get the result you wanted. Whatever challenges or opportunities you’re facing you’ll stand a much better chance of getting a great result if you set things up to succeed ahead of time.
So what exactly do you want to happen? What solution, outcome or result would be great? Get really clear on the outcome you want from what’s facing you and how it would feel to get the outcome you’re looking for. Then start breaking it down – what can you do to set things up so that your desired outcome happens? What needs to be put in place? What will help to make what you want to happen, happen? And to ensure the best outcome, what are you willing to do?
Whatever faces you, it’s possible to get the result you want by being crystal clear about the kind of result you want and by putting effort into setting things up so that it happens. Look at this way – you’re infinitely more likely to get your most wanted result by putting time or effort into setting things up ahead of time than if you don’t. Your choice.
3. There’s No Such Thing as Losing Anyway
What’s life all about, really? Getting a good job, getting married, feeling valued, having fun? It’s about different things to different people, but to boil it down I think it’s about doing the best we can to have, do and be the best for ourselves and those we care about. Sometimes it’s a struggle and sometimes it’s a joy, but what is constant through it all is our capacity to learn, develop and grow. Humans have an unparalleled ability to learn and adapt, which is exactly why we’re able to do the best we can and find ways to have, do and be more.
That’s why everything you do takes you one step forwards and it’s only by doing one thing, then another and another that the most astounding things in our world came about. As Thomas Edison said while he was on his 207th prototype for the electric light bulb – ‘I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.’ He’s absolutely right – everything you do that doesn’t work out is another tick in another box and another step forwards, because you know one more way not to do something and what not to do next time. You’ll never get to 100% without going from 1% to 99% first.
In all that you do, whether it turns out how you wanted it to or not, there’s the capacity for learning. That means that it’s all part of the process and everything that you do and learn is an important step forwards.
There’s no such thing as losing, only learning and growing. So here’s to your continued success!”