So, here are some of the themes I’ve been hearing lately:
- I’ve gained so much weight during COVID that I am so mad at myself
- I have completely lost momentum with my routines
- I have no motivation and my productivity has tanked
- I really need a vacation but I don’t feel I can take the time
I get it. I’ve struggled with feeling like my normally positive, glass-half-full, greatness-is-everywhere self.
Here’s the thing though. Beating ourselves up and wishing for something else isn’t getting us back on track. It’s not making us feel any better in the middle of this pandemic. (She says after just getting back from a much needed vacation.)
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
We’ve probably all had someone in our life, at some time, tell us that it’s okay to not be okay. (If you haven’t, it’s time you got less perfectionistic friends.)
It’s true though. It’s okay to struggle, try things and fail, not always be on our “A” game (unless you’re a pro ball player and then, well, it’s probably somewhere in your contract you have to be “A” game material ;-] ). Particularly during times of strain like now, we may find ourselves struggling with things we had on track six months ago – healthy habits, socializing, separating work and home – because nothing is normal!
To struggle is human (I think someone said it and if they didn’t, there, I said it).
Not feeling better yet? It might be that you have a failure resistant mindset. Or those around you and where you work, you’re not allowed to fail. Or both.
What You Focus On Grows
You will always find the evidence for whatever you believe. Think you’re not eating right lately? I bet you recall every unhealthy thing you ate today. But have you only eaten unhealthy things today? Doubt it. If you focus on what you did well, you will see evidence of that too. What you focus on is what you see.
Even if you see way more evidence something is not working (“I really haven’t eaten a vegetable since last Thursday”) then look for the exception to the rule. This is called positive deviance. And when you see where the positive exception is, you can consider why that exception existed (maybe you had prepped healthy veggies in the fridge, you weren’t starving by the time you prepared your meal, you went for a walk and didn’t want to “ruin” your healthy start for the day, you were with your BFF versus your teenage sons who could eat ten Big Macs and the only problem they’d have is some water retention).
So what has this got to do with work? Well, glad you asked.
A lot of my (totally brilliant, amazing, talented) coaching clients find when they’re stuck, it’s when they’re focused on “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. We call this the “s” word. It’s an external, super judgemental and completely unhelpful frame of reference that’s often myered in comparitis, partial information and unexplored biases.
Now, you may be thinking, but Sarah, I really should ________ (fill in the blank) and I have no “excuse.” Okay, I get it. Maybe there could be more veggies and taking on task and less Netflix. I’m just saying fixating unrelentingly on what’s not working is only going to keep you stuck, and in the process, rob you of your opportunity to notice and live into your greatness.
Flip Failure to Refocus
If you’ve read my book Flip Side of Failing: How to Recognize and Leverage Greatness in Work and Life, you will know that to get out of this unhealthy cycle of problem fixation, we often need to challenge our very notion of failure.
We feel like failures often. More often than we realize. It’s in a very socially acceptable form called labels. You may disagree with me that they’re acceptable because we don’t use all of the negative, hurtful, and derogatory words quite as frequently and publicly as we might have in the past. However, I challenge you to go a day without labelling yourself or someone else in your head. Go ahead, try. If you do it, you’re a better person than me.
What are some of the labels I see? Low performer. Divorcee. Bad Mom/Dad. Unemployed. Clown. Bossyboots. Uneducated. Manic Depressive. Millennial.
- Underperformer – you had a poor performance review
- Divorcee – you or your partner chose not to be in the relationship any longer
- Bad Mom/Dad – you haven’t spend as much time/patience/attention with the kids as you’d like
- Unemployed – you are currently looking for work
- Clown – you like to have fun (and not everyone gets you)
- Bossyboots – you have strong opinions you vocalize
- Uneducated – you have less formal schooling than peers
- Manic depressive – you have struggled with a diagnosed mental illness
- Millennial – you are in a demographic category (and again, not everyone gets you)
You see what I mean? You’re not your labels. Your labels are not you. You’re not a failure. Failures are not you. Missteps, obstacles and frustrations are all a part of the package of life, goodness knows it’s part of the package of a pandemic.
The Great Fail Too
If you’ve read Flip Side of Failing you will know the story that it was supposed to be a book about greatness. The team and I interviewed over 30 amazing Canadians about their greatness. When I went to write that book, well, it was boring. It was uninspired. It was fluffy. In other words, I failed in writing my book. Not once. But twice (if at first you don’t succeed…).
Why? The real story is that the road to greatness is paved with failures, disappointments, rejection and barriers. By talking about greatness, I learned that valuing and even seeking out failure, and then finding a way to use failure to your advantage, gets you farther ahead than playing it safe.
I know this is resonating as my most required keynote (virtual or live) is the Flip Side of Failing keynote (and believe me, I don’t think it’s because I do hip hop dancing during that speech.) It’s also the most requested topic when I’m interviewed for podcasts.
I thought now might be a time for the friendly reminder that there are a whole host of great podcast episodes where I had some pretty cool conversations with even cooler people about how to flip failure – anytime and during this zany pandemic time. Over the next two weeks, I’ll share the eight key lessons that are particularly relevant right now.
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In the meantime, stay safe and stay well.
Here are more resources to help you Focus on Flipping Failure: