Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2016Share This Post
If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have your eyes on a very specific prize, second place can feel like a first class ticket to Loserville, even if it’s just a coach ticket to whatever goal you had in the first place. If your drive is making it so hard to appreciate your efforts that it’s really just driving you crazy, here are five ways to deal with that perceived failure.
1) Get Your Goals In Line
Putting aside the performance goals that you don’t really control, like a particular salary, promotion, or degree, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Usually, with goals that are work- or education-related, you’re ultimately trying to find a way to make a living and develop your skills and abilities. The kind of grades you get or job you finally land—the feel-good outcomes—are never completely under your control, so don’t hold yourself accountable for them.
2) Set Effort-Based Standards
Instead of reaching for those feel-good outcomes, measure your success by how much time, effort, and overall feel-bad hard work you put into your goal, like the number of hours you studied and whether you asked for help when you needed it. If you found yourself avoiding the work, ask yourself whether you faced that problem and tried to do something about it. Be objective in grading your efforts, using the same standards as you would for anyone else, and if you find yourself falling short, avoid self-incrimination and aim for self-improvement instead.
3) Fight Negative Thoughts
Unless you’re a massive jerk/Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t tell someone who’d tried hard and put in the work that he was a failure, so don’t be that mean to yourself. If you’re a natural-born perfectionist who tends to get down on himself, learn how to talk back to your self-criticism and give yourself positive encouragement, getting help from a positive coach/therapist if necessary. Otherwise, your negative thinking will make your performance worse, cause you undeserved pain, and put you at the mercy of the world’s meanest critic, who happens to live in your head.
4) Get Motivation From Your Good Values
Ditch outcomes-based motivation, looking inward instead to find drive in your own positive ideals, like the importance of being independent, helping others, and doing your share. Yes, you’re also motivated by good results, competition with others, and the ecstasy of the victory lap. When your career goals reflect positive values, however, regardless of whether you’re getting the glory, it’s much harder to feel negative about the outcome of your efforts, even when those outcomes are negative themselves.
5) Reject Failure And Rethink Success
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t listen to old clichés and keep trying the same thing over again and again. Step back, seek advice, and ask yourself whether there’s an obstacle you can’t control, like a skill you can’t acquire or a relationship you can’t make work. If that’s the case, accept your helplessness, don’t take it personally, and try to find another way forward. You may need to compromise or eat some crow, but as long as you’re acting in accordance with your basic values, you’re on the right path to some kind of success you can be proud of.
More advice from Dr. Lastname