If two tablets with sales commandments were ever brought down from a mountain, commandment one would read, “Thou shalt stay positive.”
It’s been commanded by Zig Ziglar. It’s been commanded by Dale Carnegie. It’s been commanded by Tony Robbins. Every sales and success guru to stand on a stage at a conference has spread the gospel of an upbeat attitude.
But unless you’re a naturally cheerful person (and very few of us are born with that gift) stopping the slide into despondency after failure is easier said than done.
It’s especially tempting to give into crippling sales stress after a big deal falls through, a client decides to switch to your competitor, or those long hours aren’t paying off like you hoped they would.
It’s easy, and almost feels natural, to allow stinging disappointment to fester into frustration. The biggest problem with frustration and depression, however, is that they’re mostly useless. They just make you feel terrible while sapping your will to forge ahead despite the setbacks.
So how are you supposed to be like Pollyanna when you really want to morph into Grumpy Cat?
Well, what if your biggest problem isn’t the problem itself? What if your problem is how you see the problem? And if just by tweaking how you see your problems, you would not only be undisturbed by them, you would actually be grateful for them?
Here are four ways to see your so-called “problems” in a more flattering light.
1) I’ve Learned Something
As the saying goes, “Smooth seas make for poor sailors.” Our skills are forged in the heat of challenges.
If a deal falls through, ask yourself why. Did you fail to qualify the prospect sufficiently? Was your sales presentation weak? Did you fail to account for how a competitor promotes their product?
There’s a lesson packed inside every setback. Many, unfortunately, dismiss this free, real-world education. They see it as something that’s useless and nothing can be done about it.
When you have the gift of hindsight, ask yourself: “What would I do differently if I had a do over?” Now be sure to do that next time.
2) This Is a Test of My Resolve
The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said that he was grateful when he encountered problems, because he knew he had the strength to handle them. If they befell a weaker person, they might let their problems hurt them.
The weaker people he was speaking of are those who haven’t yet endured enough of life’s trials. There are some people who practically get everything handed to them. So when they encounter an obstacle, they completely fall apart. They’re soft. They’re spoiled. And since most petty problems hold them back, they rarely get what they want.
Handling troubles is like going to the gym of life. You may not get exactly what you want when your plans are thwarted. But you get to exercise your will, your patience, and the strength of your personal drive. When you build these inner muscles, you become more powerful and more prepared for the next challenges that life throws at you.
Know that whenever you go through difficulties, you’re expanding your inner power at the same exact time.
3) This Is Actually an Opportunity
Whenever a deal doesn’t go as planned, ask yourself: “Am I sure that this is bad?”
The world is littered with stories of failures that transformed into success.
In 1968 Dr. Silver Spencer tried to create a super strong glue at 3M. The glue was extremely weak, and he failed at his goal spectacularly. But when someone got the idea of sticking it to small squares of paper, the Post-it note (and one of 3M’s most successful commercial products) was born.
In the mid 2000s, a company called Android, Inc. was hard at work developing software for digital cameras. But they ran into one catastrophic problem: the digital camera software market was painfully small. It seemed their project was doomed from the start. But rather than getting frustrated, they diverted their attention to the then-growing mobile phone market instead. Shortly afterward, they were acquired by Google. And today, Android is the most popular smartphone operating system in the world.
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes that she would have never earned a seat on the highest court in the land if she wasn’t passed over for an an associate job earlier in her career.
“You think about what would have happened,” she said in an interview with MAKERS. “Suppose I had gotten a job as a permanent associate. Probably I would have climbed up the ladder and today I would be a retired partner. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.”
When plans fall through, we’re often so eager to jump to the conclusion that the worst possible event happened. We think that we’re now forced to deal with second (or third) best.
But is that true, or are you being hasty in your conclusions? If you dig deeper, you might discover a hidden opportunity.
4) It’s Going to Be Awesome When I Overcome This
In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the wizard Prospero wants a prince to marry his daughter. But rather than granting his approval, Prospero decides to be rude and threatening to the prince and deliberately keep the pair apart. He says he has to do this “lest too light winning make the prize light.”
In other words, if they got together without any problems at all, they wouldn’t value the “prize” of their relationship. The sweetness of success isn’t just about what what we get. It’s also the pride of knowing how much we had to overcome in order to get it, and understanding not everyone had the persistence and dedication necessary to make it happen.
Sometimes, on the path to our goals, we underestimate the amount of time and effort required to achieve them. We wish we could just effortlessly sail to what we want. But that’s rarely the case. It takes someone with a superior sense of mission (like you) to plow past obstacles and detours on the way to your goals. And that’s great, because once you finally get what you want, you’ll be much more appreciative of it.
Shift Your Perspective, Improve Your Attitude
As Captain Jack Sparrow once observed, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
Some hard-nosed pessimists like to believe that if you look at the sunny side of things all the time, you’re just sticking your head the sand. Reality is tough, they argue, and you need to see bad events in life for what they are: painful obstructions.
But more often than not, it’s the pessimists who ignore the truth. They think that “This happened and it’s bad” is an observation about reality. But it’s not.
"This happened” is an observation. But “it’s bad” is usually dependant on your perspective. The wonderful thing about perspective is that it can change based on what you want to look for. If you choose to look for the benefits in every struggle, you’ll get invigorated by them, rather than slowed down by them.
Originally published Oct 12, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017