Create Your Own Future
There can be no great courage where there is no conﬁdence or assurance, and half the battle is in the conviction that we can do what we undertake. —Orison Swett Marden
Every successful person has experienced countless temporary set- backs, obstacles, and even outright defeats, in the course of his or her life. But it has been the ability to respond positively and con- structively to these defeats and to bounce back that ultimately has assured success. This quality of bouncing rather than breaking will determine your success as well.
Dr. Abraham Zaleznik of the Harvard Business School did a study some years ago on the role that disappointment plays in life. Many people had researched and written on motivation and its rela- tionship to success. But Zaleznik was the ﬁrst person who looked at the other side of the coin.
- THINKING AHEAD
If you are a normal, intelligent person, you will organize each area of your life to avoid failure and disappointment as much as possible. You will think ahead and anticipate what could go wrong. You will then take the necessary precautions to guard against setbacks and problems. You will weigh and balance differ- ent options. You will select the course of action that offers the greatest likelihood of success.
Nonetheless, no matter how well you think and plan, things will not always turn out the way you expect. Murphy’s Law says: “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Of all the things that can go wrong, the worst possible thing will go wrong at the worst possible time and cost the most amount of money.” Cohen’s Law then adds: “Mur- phy was an optimist!”
Therefore, disappointment comes unbidden. Disappointment comes in spite of your best efforts to avoid it. Disappointment is in- evitable and unavoidable. As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you are going to experience disappointments in life. And the more goals you set and the more things you try, the more difﬁculties and problems you will have.
- THE ONE THING YOU CAN CONTROL
What Dr. Zaleznik discovered was that successful people respond to disappointment differently from unsuccessful people. His conclu- sion was that the way you deal with disappointment is an extremely good predictor of whether you will achieve success in your ﬁeld, or in life overall.
Since you can’t always avoid disappointment, no matter what you do, the only thing that matters is how you deal with the disap- pointment when it comes upon you, unwanted and unexpected. Do you let it overwhelm you? Do you blow up, become angry, and blame or attack other people? Or do you roll with the punches, and respond effectively?
Successful people deal with disappointment by taking it in stride. Unsuccessful people allow disappointment to stop them. Successful people recover and continue forward. Unsuccessful peo ple often quit and go back. Motivational speaker Charlie Jones says,
“It’s not how far you fall but how high you bounce that counts!”
■THE TRIGGER OF NEGATIVITY
Most negative emotions are triggered by frustrated expectations. You wish, hope, or plan for something to happen in a certain way, and when it doesn’t, you react with impatience and anger. This is quite normal. If you care about a result, you are going to be hurt if you don’t achieve it.
The challenge is that emotions are triggered instantaneously. For this reason, you can have very little control over your emotions and reactions at the moment that something happens to you. It is too late. When the disappointment occurs, you will react instinc- tively and habitually, depending on your previous experiences. When things go wrong, it is too late for you to think of ﬁne and no- ble thoughts.You simply react.
Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher, once wrote, “Circum- stances do not make the man; they only reveal him to himself,” and to others, for that matter. It is not the adverse situation that builds your character so much as it reveals your character as it exists at that moment.
■PREPARE IN ADVANCE
One of the best ways to change your thinking, and your life, is to prepare for disappointment in advance. Set yourself up to bounce back quickly by practicing mental prepreparation.
Mental prepreparation enables you to prepare internally for the inevitable disappointments of life and work, even though you do not know what they are or when they will come. This is one of the most powerful of all thinking techniques that you can use to gain and keep control of your emotions, assuring that they are primarily pos- itive and constructive, no matter what happens.
In mental prepreparation, you begin with the premise that you are going to face all kinds of problems and difﬁculties when you de- cide to accomplish anything worthwhile in life. In fact, if you set a big, challenging goal for yourself, one that forces you out of your comfort zone, you are going to meet with countless obstacles and difﬁculties that you cannot now imagine.
This trial by endurance seems to go with the territory. Every time you try to be or do something more or different, problems of all kinds will arise in your path. If you are not prepared in advance, they can discourage you and drive you back into your comfort zone. Instead of waiting for the inevitable problems to occur, you mentally prepare for these inevitable difﬁculties before they happen. You say to yourself: “Today I will face all kinds of ups and downs, difﬁ- culties and setbacks, but I will not let them get me down. Once I start to-
ward my goal, I will be unstoppable!”
■PRACTICE CRISIS ANTICIPATION
In business consulting, we teach a way of thinking called “crisis an- ticipation.” I encourage decision makers to look six months to a year into the future and ask the question, “What are some of the negative things that could happen that would derail our plans? Of all of them, what are the very worst things that could happen?”
We then make a list of all the different setbacks or unexpected emergencies that could occur that would threaten the enterprise. For example: A competitor could come out with a new product or service that was better and/or cheaper than ours. Interest rates could go up. Government could place new taxes and regulations on our activities. Costs of fuel or raw materials could increase. A key person or persons within the organization could depart for some reason. A key customer or customers could leave and go to a com- petitor. Competitors could cut their prices below costs in order to take business away. The economy could tip into recession and the overall market could shrink dramatically.
In each of these cases, the ability of the company to respond quickly and effectively could determine its very survival. These pos- sible reversals and setbacks should be thought through in advance. The best rule is “no surprises!”
Royal Dutch/Shell of the Netherlands has one of the most complete forward planning processes of any company in the world. It has developed over 600 scenarios to deal with problems that might occur around the world in areas where it has oil and gas operations. As a result, the company is seldom surprised by anything that happens. It is never caught off guard. It always has a backup plan ready to go. It has also become one of the most continuously proﬁtable and successful companies in the world. Thinking ahead really pays off.
■LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
What works for large and small corporations can work for you as well. You should practice crisis anticipation regularly in everything you do. Look down the road of your life, like a traveler, and imagine some of the negative things that might happen and how you could respond to them. You will be amazed at how much more positive and conﬁdent you will feel when you have already developed alter- native courses of action to some of the worst things that could hap- pen in a particular area.
For example, what would you do if you lost your job today? The idea of losing one’s job is a major fear for most people, affecting 37 percent of the working population according to one study. I re- ceived a letter recently from a gentleman who told me that his fear of losing his job, which he recognized was completely irrational, was so great that it was paralyzing him. It was actually holding him back from doing the kind of work that he had to do in order to keep his job. His fear and his lack of alternatives were actually increasing the likelihood that he would be laid off.
■YOUR NEW JOB
Sometimes I ask people in my audiences, “What is your next job go- ing to be?” For most people this question comes as a surprise. They have not even thought about what their next job is going to be. But we know that the world of work is changing at a rapid rate. The fact is that you have already changed jobs several times. It is virtually in- evitable that you will change jobs again, and perhaps sooner than you expect. What is your next job likely to be?
When I explain that each person must be preparing for his or her next job, it is a new idea for most people. They either have not thought about it or don’t want to think about it. But the only question is this: “What level of knowledge, skills, and ability will you require at your next job in order to continue to earn the kind of money that you want to earn in the future?”
If you don’t think about this question in advance, you may be forced to think about it when your time has run out and the ques- tion is forced upon you.
■YOUR NEW CAREER
After audience members have thought about what their next job is going to be, I then ask the second question, “What is your next career going to be?” What entirely new ﬁeld, industry, business, or line of work are you going to be in 5 to 10 years from now?
According to employment experts, a person starting work to- day will have an average of 14 or 15 full-time jobs, each lasting two years or more, over the course of a working lifetime. He or she will also have as many as ﬁve different careers, in completely dif- ferent ﬁelds, each of which will require new kinds of knowledge and different skills.
Much of what you know about your current work will be obso- lete within ﬁve years. Because of rapid changes taking place in every area, your existing store of knowledge, information, ideas, and skills will be of little value. These will have no relevance or application to the job market and the economy of the future. You will need new knowledge and skills if you want to survive and thrive in an increas- ingly competitive society.
This is why Peter Drucker said, “The only skill that will not be- come obsolete in the years ahead is the ability to learn new skills.”
■CONTINUALLY THINK AHEAD
You probably recall the famous comment by hockey star Wayne Gretzky. When he was asked by a reporter for the secret of his suc- cess on the ice, he replied by saying, “Most players are pretty good, but they go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going to be.”
This observation is directly relevant to you. Where is your puck going to be three to ﬁve years from now? Where is your puck going to be 10 years from now? Taking a long-term perspective on your work life enables you to make better decisions in the short term. As strategic planner Michael Kami says, “Those who do not think about the future cannot have one.”
Look into your future and begin to imagine and anticipate some of the twists and turns that might occur. If you lost your job today, how would you react? What would be your ﬁrst thought? The great majority of people, when they think about losing their jobs, go into a form of panic. They have no idea what they would do.
However, in my work with many thousands of successful people, I have found that they have one particular attitude in common. They all know with complete assurance that if they lost their jobs they could walk across the street and get another job tomorrow. They are so good at what they do, and so conﬁdent in their abilities, that job loss to them would be merely an inconvenience. They have lots of options.
As I mentioned in Chapter 6, there is a way to determine how good you are in your ﬁeld. What is the number of job offers you get on a regular basis? Just as a store or restaurant can measure its suc- cess by the number of customers or patrons it attracts, you can measure how valued and respected you are for what you do by counting the number of people who want to hire you and use your services. How are you doing?
■EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Sometimes I ask audiences what they would do if their entire indus- try disappeared overnight. They shake their heads and they say that can’t possibly happen. Then I point out that the defense industry in California literally collapsed in the early 1990s and over 400,000 highly competent defense engineers and executives, with many years of education and experience, were rendered obsolete. Their jobs were not only gone; they were gone forever. Each of these thou- sands of competent, capable men and women were forced into the position of going out into the marketplace, developing new skills, and going to work in entirely new ﬁelds.
The collapse of the dot-com mania wiped out more than 90 percent of the Internet jobs and companies that had sprung up across the country. The collapse in the telecom sector led to layoffs of many thousands of workers. The decline in recent years of the frantic investment activity that had been seen during the 1990s trig- gered the layoffs and ﬁrings of tens of thousands of people in the ﬁ- nancial services industries. It goes on and on, and will continue. Only the names of the industries will change. This rapid shift in jobs and industries is going to happen more and more often to more and more people.
■YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE
The world of ﬁnance and investments is constantly changing. The markets are increasingly volatile. The old philosophy of “buy and hold” is no longer relevant to the world of today, and tomorrow. If you have money invested, you should be thinking continually about what might happen if your investments went bad and you lost all your money. You should always be preparing against the worst pos- sible outcome of a particular investment.
There is a direct relationship between how much time you in- vest in thinking about and planning your ﬁnancial life and how likely you are to become ﬁnancially independent. According to Dr. Thomas Stanley’s interviews with thousands of self-made million- aires, they share a common characteristic: they spend far more time thinking about ﬁnancial matters than the average person.
The average adult, even though he or she worries about money much of the time, spends only two to three hours per month actu- ally thinking about his or her ﬁnances, usually at bill-paying time. The average afﬂuent American, in contrast, spends 20 to 30 hours per month thinking about his or her money. As a result, they make far better spending decisions and more intelligent investments than the majority. They become increasingly skilled in money matters, and eventually pull ahead of their peers.
■THE STRATEGY OF NAPOLEON
The French general Napoleon dominated the continent of Europe for almost 20 years. He led his armies to victory in dozens of bat- tles, and lost only three battles in his entire career. He lost almost 600,000 men when he invaded Russia, failing to anticipate the cold of the Russian winter. Greatly weakened from the Russian campaign, he subsequently lost the battle of Leipzig, which led to his being exiled to the island of Elba. And ﬁnally, he lost at the battle of Waterloo due to a series of miscommunications with his ﬁeld generals.
It is often forgotten that he won many other battles, small and large, and is considered to be one of the three greatest military ge- niuses of history. (Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were the other two.) Napoleon had developed a quality that helped him to achieve victory, which you also can develop. It is called extrapolatory thinking. This is the ability to think and plan several moves ahead in whatever you are doing. This way of thinking involves your consid- ering every possible event that could occur, and then making provi- sions for them, well in advance.
Napoleon personally felt that his thoroughness and depth of preparation, carefully considering every detail, were his key to vic- tory. This quality was demonstrated by his phenomenal ability to ar- rive onto the ﬁeld of a potential battle and then to think through every single possible twist and turn of the battle to its logical con- clusion—before the ﬁrst shot was ﬁred.
Once he had completed his preparations, he could take his posi- tion at his command center to direct the battle. No matter what news he received from any part of the battleﬁeld, he was always ready with an immediate response. Many people thought that his quickness of response under ﬁre was because he was a brilliant thinker, which he was, but that was not the secret of his success. His secret was that he had thought through every possible eventuality, in advance.
■EXTRAPOLATE FROM THE PRESENT
This ability, to think through every major situation in your life in advance, is a way of thinking that you can learn with practice. The better you become at anticipating future events based on current facts, the better your life will be. You will be able to minimize re- versals and maximize opportunities. Thinking this way will give you an edge over others who simply react and respond to what- ever happens.
If you work for a company, you should be thinking through the worst possible things that could happen in the next six months to a year that could affect your job and your security. If you own the company, you should identify the worst possible things that could affect the survival and health of your enterprise. You and your spouse should discuss possible problems and difﬁculties that might occur in your family life, and then make plans to guard against them.
■TAKE NECESSARY FINANCIAL PRECAUTIONS
You often read about people who failed to insure properly and consequently lost their cars, their homes, and sometimes all of their possessions. They failed to look into the future and ask what the consequences to their life would be if a ﬁre occurred in their home or if they had a trafﬁc accident and they were not sufﬁ- ciently insured.
One of the smartest things that you can do to preserve your ﬁ- nancial well-being is to develop a regular savings program.Your goal should be to save 10 percent and more of your income, off the top, each month, from each paycheck or income source. There are few things that will give a greater sense of conﬁdence and control than for you to know that you have a cash reserve set aside in the event of an unexpected emergency. In contrast, there is nothing that will cause you more stress and tension than to be living on the edge of your ﬁnancial resources, unable to deal with a ﬁnancial emergency or a need of any kind.
W. Clement Stone once said, “If you cannot save money, then the seeds of greatness are not in you.”
■LIVE WITHIN YOUR INCOME
Your ability to save money and to discipline yourself to live within your income is a key measure of your ability to succeed in life. If you do not have the internal self-control to refrain from spending everything you earn, this suggests that you probably don’t have the discipline necessary to succeed in other areas of your life. Although the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, it is far more likely that the lack of money is the root of all evil.
Perhaps the greatest beneﬁt of saving your money and building up a cash reserve is that it enables you to take advantage of oppor- tunities when they arise, as they always do. In the movie Field of Dreams, a profound idea was expressed: “If you build it, they will come.” In the ﬁnancial world, this means that if you accumulate money through hard work and saving, you will attract into your life opportunities to invest that money to earn even more.
■BECOMING A MONEY MAGNET
The Law of Attraction is very powerful in monetary matters. When you save even a small amount of money and put it in a bank ac- count or a carefully chosen mutual fund, you create a certain force ﬁeld of energy around that money. This energy somehow begins to attract even more money into your life. As your savings and invest- ments grow, the magnetic power of your money grows even stronger. The more money you accumulate, the more money that will be attracted to you, and the more opportunities you will have to accumulate even more.
When you think about your money and the pleasure it gives you to have money in the bank, you increase the energy ﬁeld around your money and you attract even more. This force ﬁeld becomes even more powerful when you love your money. When you think about your growing ﬁnancial reserves with intense happiness, you intensify the energy around your money and you attract even more. When people say that it takes money to make money, they are right in two special ways. First, your ability to save money and build up a nest egg is a measure of whether you have the ability to earn even more money and whether you can be trusted with money. Sec- ond, when you put together even a small amount of money, you will attract opportunities to accumulate an even larger amount.
■A SUCCESS STORY
A participant came up to me at a seminar recently and asked if I re- membered him. I told him that unfortunately I spoke to too many people each year to remember all of them. He reminded me that he had attended my two-day seminar about six years before. He was quite shy so he waited at the lunch break until everyone had left. He then told me about a most remarkable series of events that had hap- pened to him since the seminar.
When he came to my seminar, he was a used car salesman. He had two children and was in his early thirties. He was earning an av- erage income and was up to his neck in debt. He was living in a rented house with his family.
At the seminar, he decided that his biggest source of worry was the fact that he was in debt and had no money in the bank. So he set a goal to get out of debt and to save $30,000 over the next ﬁve years. This was a huge goal for him, considering his circumstances and his past. He had not been out of debt since his teens.
Nonetheless, in faith, he wrote down his goal, made a plan, and be- gan working on it every day. This decision activated his mental pow- ers. Because of the Law of Correspondence, the Law of Attraction, and the Law of Subconscious Activity, among others, things began to change for him far faster than he had imagined. He actually achieved his ﬁnancial goal in only three years. He was out of debt and had $30,000 in the bank.
One day, his boss, the owner of the dealership, called him in and asked him if he was interested in a business opportunity. He was quite ﬂattered and asked his boss to explain. His boss said that he had observed how much better he had become as a sales- man, and he had also heard that he had saved up some money from his income.
This salesman was shy and cautious, and asked his boss what he had in mind. His boss told him that he had been approached by the automobile manufacturer in Detroit and asked to recommend someone who would be interested in opening a new car dealership in the same city in a growing part of town. The boss said he was willing to recommend him, and back him in this dealership. He would go in with him as a full partner if he were willing to put in his money as well.
The ﬁnal outcome of this story was that his boss helped him set up the new dealership; he helped him with all the purchasing, in- ventory, parts, service department decisions, and stafﬁng. After two years, his boss sold the half share back to him, so he ended up own- ing the dealership 100 percent.
Then he said to me, “And today, I’m a millionaire.” He said, “Six years ago I was a used car salesman, and today I am a million- aire.” He was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He said if he had not taken that advice from the seminar and begun saving his money and getting out of debt, he would not have been in a position to take advantage of that opportunity when it came along. He said, “Taking your seminar probably saved me 20 years of hard work, and maybe even a lifetime.”
This story applies to your life as well. One of the most impor- tant actions that you can take to remain positive and optimistic is to prepare mentally, ﬁnancially, and physically in advance. Think through what might possibly happen and make plans to prepare for opportunities. Make plans and put aside reserves to minimize or es- cape the consequences of a ﬁnancial setback. This way of thinking, of planning ahead in every area, is a mark of the superior individual.
■TWO MAGIC QUESTIONS
Here are two questions that you can ask to turn failure into success. I call these the magic questions because of the incredible power they have to improve your life. You can ask them and beneﬁt from them after every experience.
The ﬁrst question is, “What did I do right?” No matter what you do, or how it turns out, whether it is a success or a failure, you should do an instant mental replay of the event and assess every- thing that you did right in that situation.
Even if it turns out badly, or was a complete failure, there were always things that you did that were correct. If you can isolate the positive parts of your performance and write them down, you will be preprogramming your mind to repeat the things that you did right in the next similar situation.
The second magic question is, “What would I do differently?” This is an excellent question because it forces you to think positively about what happened and how you could do better. Ask yourself, if you had to do it over again, how would you change or improve your performance or behavior in that situation? What would you do more of or less of?
Be sure to write down your answers. This ensures that you cap- ture them before you forget. Each time you try something new or different, immediately sit down with a pad of paper and answer those two questions: “What did I do right?” and “What would I do differently?” Both of these questions are positive and they both re- quire positive responses.Your answers prepare you, consciously and unconsciously, to do even better next time. Both sets of answers keep you focused on improvement rather than regret.
■POSITIVE VERSUS NEGATIVE THINKING
Both winners and losers examine how they performed after an im- portant event. But underachievers almost invariably rehash the mis- takes they have made, the expenses they have incurred, and the failures they have experienced. High achievers, in contrast, those who think positively about themselves and their lives, are constantly reviewing the best parts of their performance and making plans to repeat those actions the next time.
When you think about what you did right and what you could do differently next time, your mind will be completely positive.Your creativity will be stimulated. You will see all kinds of opportunities and possibilities for improvement that you would have missed com- pletely if you allowed yourself to feel sorry for yourself after an un- successful event.
■BUSINESS AND SALES
If you are in business, you should ask these questions regularly of yourself and your key staff: “What did we do right?” and “What would we do differently next time?” Remember, most things you try will be unsuccessful the ﬁrst few times. By asking these questions, you extract the greatest value possible from the situation. Treat every experience as an opportunity to learn something that can help you next time.
If you are in sales, use this method after every sale. Immediately after a sales call, successful or not, ask the magic questions. This quick review will dramatically increase the speed at which you learn and grow as a sales professional.
Make this instant replay a part of your life. Use this method re- peatedly so that it becomes automatic. No matter how disappoint- ing the setback or difﬁculty may be, you will soon be preprogrammed to learn the most from the situation and to extract every kernel of good that you can possibly get from it.
When you combine this method with mindstorming—forcing yourself to generate 20 answers to each question—you will be ab- solutely astonished at the number of great ideas and insights for growth and improvement you will come up with. These ideas will dramatically increase the speed at which you become one of the best in your ﬁeld.
■THE EDISON APPROACH
Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of the modern age, was con- vinced that experimentation was simply a process of elimination. He therefore kept accurate records of every experiment. Once he had decided that an invention was possible, he dedicated himself to eliminating the ways that wouldn’t work until the only method left standing was the one way that would work. As a result, he became the greatest inventor of the modern age and one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country.You should do the same.
From now on, each time you try and fail, shrug it off as a learn- ing experience that just moved you one step closer to success. As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is merely an opportunity to more intel- ligently begin again.”
■YOUR RECOVERY RATE
When you experience a disappointment of any kind, your natural reaction is to feel stunned emotionally.You feel as though you have been punched in your emotional solar plexus. You feel hurt, let down, disappointed, and discouraged. You occasionally feel like quitting altogether and doing something completely different. These feelings are normal and natural when you experience frus- tration or failure of any kind. The only question is, how long do they last?
When you go to a doctor or clinic for a complete medical exam, you will often be given a stress test. First, they will take your pulse at your resting heart rate. Then they will ask you to do some aerobic exercises to raise your heart rate. Once your heart rate is up to a particular point, they will measure it again. They will wait one, two, and ﬁve minutes after the exercise, and again take your pulse. The mark of how ﬁt you are is how rapidly your heart returns to its rest- ing pulse rate after exercise.
With your personality, it is the same. The mark of how mentally healthy you are can be measured by how quickly you recover after experiencing a disappointment. Of course, a setback or reversal will hurt. It always hurts if what you are trying to do is important to you. But that’s not the main point. The main point is how quickly you bounce back.Your recovery rate is everything. If you plan in ad- vance for setbacks and problems, and preprogram your mind the way we have described in this chapter, your recovery rate will be much faster.
Your recovery rate is under your control. It is completely deter- mined by the way you think about what happens to you. It is not the event itself that affects you, but rather the way that you interpret the event to yourself. And this is very much a choice you make.
■YOUR INNER DIALOGUE
Here are several powerful afﬁrmations that you can use to take immediate mental and emotional control over a negative situa- tion. These words quickly neutralize any negative feelings you might have.The ﬁrst thing you say when something goes wrong is the words: “I am responsible!”
Your natural tendency when something goes wrong will be to become angry and upset and either blame someone or something else or make excuses. But the moment you say, “I am responsible!” you stop blaming someone else for the problem. By accepting re- sponsibility, even if it is only for the way you react, you short-circuit your feelings of disappointment, anger, and frustration. The instant you say, “I am responsible!” your mind becomes calm and clear again.You begin to think of positive, constructive things you can do to minimize the damage or to maximize the opportunity.
■INTERPRET IT POSITIVELY
Here is an afﬁrmation that has been extraordinarily helpful to me over the years. No matter what has happened, and no matter how disappointed I am, I immediately say, “Every experience is a positive experience if I view it as an opportunity for growth and self-mastery.”
This statement enables you to assert control over your emo- tions. It forces you to think about how you can learn and grow from this problem. Like the statement “I am responsible,” these words give you a sense of control and personal power in any situation. “Every situation is a positive situation if I view it as an opportunity for growth and self-mastery.”
You then look into the situation and ask yourself what you can possibly learn from what has just happened. How can you grow as a result of this difﬁculty? What has this situation been sent to teach you? If you had a divine force that was controlling your destiny, and this force was sending you speciﬁc learning experiences to help you to be successful, what lessons could you ﬁnd in your current problem?
■ONE THOUGHT AT A TIME
Your mind can hold only one thought at a time, positive or negative. If you are constructively looking for a solution for or a valuable lesson from every difﬁculty, you can’t be upset or angry at the same time. If you apply the Law of Substitution and deliberately force yourself to think about the positive aspects of the situation, you will always ﬁnd them.You will then be able to turn them to your advantage.
A positive mental attitude, which means a positive and con- structive response to disappointments and setbacks, is largely deter- mined by your feeling a sense of control. Having a sense of control means that you feel you are in control of your own life.You feel that you are in charge. You feel that you are in the driver’s seat. You feel that you are on top of things.
■THINK ABOUT YOUR GOALS
One of the most powerful ways to bounce back from failure is to put the negative situation into its proper perspective. Remember, failure is never ﬁnal. Most mistakes that you make are small relative to the great scheme of things. If you think back, you will probably not even be able to remember what it was you were worrying about a year ago, much less three, four, or ﬁve years ago.
The key to your having a sense of control is for you to develop and maintain a clear sense of direction. This sense of direction comes from having clear, speciﬁc, written goals. One of the most powerful ways to keep your mind positive is to simply think about your goals. When something goes wrong, think about your goals. When you lose a sale, or even a job, think about your goals. When an investment fails or a business deal falls through, think about your goals.
Your long-term goals are to be ﬁnancially independent, to enjoy excellent health, to have wonderful relationships, and to do work that makes a difference in the world, among others.
When you keep your mind on these goals, and on what you are doing to achieve each of these goals, you will ﬁnd that it is almost impossible to feel upset or angry. Thinking about your goals em- powers you and makes you a more positive and conﬁdent person.
■THINK IN TERMS OF CYCLES AND TRENDS
Look at your life as a series of cycles and trends. Think in terms of regular ups and downs. Think in terms of summers and winters, falls and springs. When you develop this long-term perspective and you see things that happen as part of a larger pattern, you will not be too caught up in short-term ﬂuctuations of your fortunes. You become much more capable of responding effectively to little prob- lems and difﬁculties of day-to-day life. You can put things into proper perspective.
The sigmoid curve, which looks like an “S” lying on its side, ex- plains much of human life. It has three phases. In the ﬁrst phase, you are struggling and working hard to ﬁgure things out and get es- tablished. This is true for a job, a relationship, a new business start- up, or the introduction of a new product or service.
The second phase comes after you have learned the critical lessons of phase one. This is the growth phase, where you make great progress and get excellent results.Your business expands, your products and services sell well, your career takes off, and your rela- tionships are at their best.
Then comes phase three, the decline phase, which follows phase two just as the winter follows the harvest season. In this phase, it be- comes harder and harder to get the same results and satisfactions as in phase two. Sales and proﬁtability are harder to achieve. Your job or relationship is no longer as enjoyable. Your company struggles to survive or thrive.
Which phase are you in today, in each of the important areas of your life and work? What could you do to get into or back into phase two, the growth phase? What are the cycles and trends in your life and business?
■“DENIAL” IS NOT A RIVER IN EGYPT
Many of our problems in dealing with setbacks and disappoint- ments come from our resisting reality. We engage in denial. We be- come angry and insist that this should not have happened to us or should not have happened at all. We reject it and wish that it hadn’t occurred in the ﬁrst place.
It is this resistance and denial that causes most of our stress. When you say, “What can’t be cured must be endured,” you lower your ﬂash point. You become more relaxed. You become calmer and you develop a more detached perspective. You stand back and you look at the situation as though it were happening to someone else. As a result you become more constructive about how the situation can best be resolved.You don’t allow yourself to become emotionally in- volved in every little thing that happens to you.
Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” In the Foundation for Inner Peace’s Course in Miracles, it says, “You give meaning to everything you see.” Without the meaning or emotion that you attach to an event or cir- cumstance, it has no emotional signiﬁcance for you. And you can change the meaning by controlling your thinking. You can even eliminate its negative effect on you altogether by refusing to become emotionally involved in a short-term setback. It is up to you.
■THE DECIDING FACTOR
Your ability to deal with disappointment in a positive, constructive way will do more to enable you to succeed and say more about you to other people than any other single factor. This is a learned ability, acquired by practice. Effective men and women are invariably those who have developed the ability to respond constructively to the large and small crises that occur unbidden, unexpectedly, and un- avoidably.You must do the same.
Decide in advance that, no matter what happens, nothing will ever stop you. Decide in advance that, although you will have countless ups and downs in the course of your life, you will keep on persisting until you win through to your goals. When you make this decision in ad- vance, you will be ready. When you engage in mental prepreparation, you will be fast on your feet when the inevitable problems appear, and be ready to bounce instead of break.You will be virtually unstoppable.
- Resolve that you will bounce rather than break. Examine your biggest disappointment in life right now and determine how you can learn or beneﬁt from it.
- Identify the three worst things that could happen to you in the months ahead. What is your plan to avoid or minimize their pos- sible negative effects?
- Select your biggest worry or problem right now and determine how you can learn and grow from this difﬁculty. What is the most important lesson that it contains?
- Practice the Edison approach to life. Calmly accept that every temporary setback is merely a way of identifying a way that does not work. Therefore, it is a success.
- No matter what happens, think about your goals and what you can do right now to achieve them. Get busy.
- Identify the trends in your business. Which way is the market go- ing? If things continue the way they are today, what decisions or changes will you have to make?
- Ask two questions about your most recent important experi- ence: What did you do right? And what would you do differently next time? Resolve to learn every possible lesson from every set- back or difﬁculty.