We all make mistakes. When we do, it is easy for those mistakes to steal attention and focus. We become fixated on them. We get stuck. We want to evaluate, analyze, and fix our mistakes right away. However, I argue that it is best to save analysis until later.
Fall is setting in here in Middle Tennessee, and leaves have started changing. This is one of my favorite times of year to hike. My wife and I were out for a hike not long ago, and along the trail we spotted a pair of squirrels chasing each other from tree to tree. They’d run up and around one tree like a corkscrew, spiral back down and leap to another. Watching them play together was a joy. It reminded me how easy it can be to forget to play.
Stress abounds in today’s culture. We think it’s normal. For people who seem constantly stressed, we don’t know how to regulate it very well. Author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, suggests people today are constantly activating their fight or flight (i.e. stress) response. This is why both performance and health suffer.
Why aren’t more people optimistic? Optimism may be the ticket to being happier, healthier and more successful. Who doesn’t want that?
Honestly, optimism often gets a bad rap. Many people see optimism as looking at the glass half full or seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. That’s not necessarily the case.
How do you respond when your spouse, friend or family asks, “How was your day?” If you are like most people, it is all too easy to unload the various frustrations, injustices and wrongs you encountered. We tend to do this rather than highlight the good experiences from our day. Some term this the negativity bias. Put simply, it is our natural tendency to focus on the bad instead of the good. We do this at work, at home, with our children and so on.
To be honest, the negativity bias isn’t all bad. This natural bias helps us detect and avoid danger. However, when we become overly focused on the bad (i.e. pessimism) at the exclusion of the good, it can lead to a host of concerns:
“When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a lifelong epidemic,” stated John Maxwell in his book, Failing Forward. This is a mindset we desperately need in our culture today, whereas we see failure as akin to some kind of plague. Parents go to great lengths to protect their children from failure. Our education system forces teachers to do everything except lie to protect students from failing a class.
We easily forget the failures of many famous names: Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs. These achievers didn’t let their failures define them and went on to great success. Are we dealing with failure all wrong? How can we capitalize on our failures to spur future success?