Monday, June 2, 2014

Failure or Near-Win?

So much of how we experience life is based on how we perceive it.  Shakespeare himself highlighted this in Hamlet when Hamlet says "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so".  It is our thoughts that shape our perceptions and, in turn, our experiences.  When we apply this to the concept of Success, it stands to reason then that the way in which we view our apparent 'lack of Success' will influence the actions we take in the future and, in turn, the level of Success we achieve.

There is a vast difference in our minds between thinking of our 'lack of success' as a failure or as a near-win. Both mean that we have not  hit our target, to have fully achieved what we set out to.  However, the label we apply to that result determines what comes next.  The 'label' will ultimately serve to determine the actions we take, either propelling us forward, turning us in a new direction or leading us to give up the attempt.

Studies have been conducted that look at the impact of achieving silver or bronze in the Olympics.  In many studies it has been found that Bronze medalists are far happier with their achievement than are Silver medalists.  Bronze winners are happy because they medalled.  They tend to compare their achievements against all those below them, all those who did not medal, and count themselves fortunate.  Silver medalists however, compare their achievement against the Gold medalist, the place that they had aimed and fallen short of.  They are therefore not as happy with their result as are Bronze medalists.  If we were simply looking at who is happiest with the outcome of a race we would then find it better to finish Gold, Bronze and then Silver.

However, further studies have taken a longer term perspective, reviewing the impact of the finish on future performance.  These findings have determined that more silver-place finishers go on to achieve gold in future than do bronze.  That 'Near-win' has served to reinforce their need and desire to train harder, propelling them forward.  That near-win leads them to believe they can eliminate the gap existing between them and the gold, cementing their focus on that goal.

How many of us might have pushed a little further, done a little more, had we categorized our lack of a win as a near-win, rather than as a failure?

How many of us would have stuck with something longer if we had felt we were 'close' to succeeding?

Our perspective of an event not only serves to define how we feel about that event, but also our future actions.  It's those near-wins that push us forward, that propel us to do more, to try harder.  This is what true mastery is about, the ongoing pursuit of excellence.  It is about the desire to continuously improve, whether your skill or knowledge, and to use that new-found ability to do more and better.  Masters of art, of literature, of sport, of music... became so out of the determination to improve upon their near-wins, their 'almosts', their 'can do betters'.  It was the constant pursuit of 'better' that led to their mastery.  The desire for 'better' being driven out of their view that they were almost there.  Not being there yet was not a failure, it simply meant they were close, that they were not done.  Success meant being closer today than they were yesterday.

Think of how this small shift in your thinking and perspective might be applied to your life.  Where have you applied the label of 'failure' to your actions that you could replace with the vision that they were all 'near-wins'?  How does this impact and perhaps alter your choices and future actions?

We tend to thrive when we have more to do, not when we feel we've done it all.  What 'more' is there for you to do and experience in your life?  Focus on your near-wins, turning each into a winning strategy for yourself.

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