“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
I recently watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. One specific episode interviewed people who suffered shark attacks. Many lost limbs and were severely traumatized at the time of the attack. However, after a number of years, each of them regained the confidence to go back in the water. One man in particular, a soccer player, lost his leg from an attack and found his whole life turned around. This individual impacted me the most. As a fellow soccer player, I could sympathize with his experience. But also, he said something that resonated with me. “The shark has certainly given me a new challenge. Every day I get up and I’m faced with a new challenge because of it, but I’m not going to let it stop me from living.” Wow! Even though a shark attacked him and his leg was amputated, he chose to view the experience as a new challenge, not a setback. This really brings perspective to the challenges we face day to day; if we choose to view our challenges as opportunities to become stronger and more capable then we will become stronger and more capable.
I believe this is a primary difference between the successful or the unsuccessful person. The successful person accepts challenges as learning opportunities to improve their life and the lives of those around them. The unsuccessful person may find themselves stuck in a pattern of struggle or depression, unwilling to take responsibility for their own situation or unwilling to invest the time and energy to move past what is standing in their way. The successful person stays positive. While it is easy to say “Stay positive,” the work required to actually keep a positive attitude if you truly feel diminishing hope can be daunting.
Here are strategies that can help you change your mind set when you find negative thoughts preventing you from adopting a positive mindset in the face of your challenges.
Failure does not need to be permanent. It can, however, serve as a stepping stone. Sometimes, failure can turn our life upside down, but if we are still breathing there is still opportunity. If we keep taking action, making advances more aggressively than before the failure occurred, with a never fail attitude, we can inch toward our positive goals.
Surround yourself with positive people.
You are the sum of the five people with whom you spend most of your time. If these people are committed to living average lives, if they tend not to take responsibility for their own situation or choices, that attitude can be contagious. However, if you surround yourself with strong-willed, positive people who hold themselves accountable for where they are in the current moment and who approach each moment as a gift, you too will adopt this same philosophy. Being around others working toward the same goals creates shared purpose. Shared purpose gives us strength.
Learn from others.
Read motivational stories; post or share inspirational memes; write down a quote that gets your fired up and read it every morning. One of the core values at my fitness studio is “Always Learning.” To keep advancing, we need to make education a priority and share our knowledge with others. Keep learning and keep finding new ways to help yourself and then share this knowledge. If you find something that works to increase your happiness and enrich your own life, it will probably do the same for someone else.
Make your personal fitness a priority.
You have to take care of yourself first – mentally, spiritually, and physically. Keeping fit will decrease your risk of disease, give you more energy, improve your mood, and help build confidence. Working to improve your fitness gives you a sense of accomplishment and naturally encourages you to approach struggles with increased mental and physical stamina.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Every night, before I go to bed, I jot down 3 things for which I am grateful. I try to think of new things each night. Sometimes, they are small occurrences. “I’m thankful for the coffee my friend bought me at lunch today.” Other times, I write larger items, taking a macro level approach regarding how they influence my life. “I’m thankful to be surrounded by so many talented and passionate people and happy they are part of my life.” By reflecting and recording these in writing, you bring your gratefulness to your conscious mind.
Persistence and Perseverance.
As an attitude, cultivating persistence can help develop the tenacity that reminds you and others what you want and how intensely you’re willing to work for what you want. You will do anything to attain it, whatever it is. Persistence directly leads to perseverance. “Push it until it breaks. Not leaving till after it’s over.” Perseverance is the ability to not quit, to keep going no matter what stands in your way; perseverance is staying persistent even when the going gets tough. These traits are essential for success, paving the way toward incorporating your struggles into goal achievement.
While the process of overcoming obstacles will lead to personal strategies, it is imperative to be prepared; don’t give up and don't give ownership to regret. Fear can be hard to overcome but regret is much more painful. Roll with the punches but create your own destiny.
The soccer player who was attacked by the shark relayed a moment from his hospital stay when his doctor brought him a shark tooth they had removed from his leg. The doctor told the man he should keep the tooth as a reminder – if he could survive this, he could survive anything. The man lying in the hospital bed took this as a message to keep going. After he was discharged from the hospital, his fascination for these creatures motivated him to study the field of marine biology and he now dedicates his life to protecting their habitat. The cause of his suffering, the obstacle it presented, became integral to the new life he built!