Principle of Objectivity #3 Helps You Rethink Failure

Are you a failure? The Objective Leader's approach to success and failure

Posted Jun 05, 2016

To be an Objective Leader requires that we identify and transform limiting and unproductive mental models or beliefs. Remember, mental models are deep- rooted ideas and beliefs about the way things are and ought to be and are often based on our past experiences, our backgrounds, our culture, etc.  What we believe is so powerful that it drives our perception and response to everything we experience. We actually think and act through our mental models. The good news is that we all have the power to change our minds. You have the ability to develop new ways of thinking and acting that can help you live a happier, more successful life. The Principles of Objectivity are intuitive insights that can help you do this. The next principle in this series is:

Principle #3:  We Cannot Always Control The Results of Our Actions 

Have you ever worked on a project and done your absolute best, but the project still failed? Almost everyone has. Many of us believe that there are only two possible results to every effort, success or failure. What dictates the results, and the varying degrees of success or failure? The reality is that we cannot control hidden variables, the things that are unknown and the things that are unknowable. To be successful  means doing what needs to be done in the present moment and being objective to the results. The challenge for many of us to being objective to the results is that we have been socialized to value ourselves and others based on performance and achievement.This need to control the end result often creates anxiety which then undermines our ability to see and do what needs to be done in the present moment.  It is a difficult and unproductive cycle in which many of us get trapped.

Being an Objective Leader means understanding and accepting the fact that we have limited control over hidden variables. Objective Leaders know that we have absolute control over our choice of action and performing the action itself. But instead of thinking about the task at hand, our minds tend to project into the future with thoughts such as, “If I fail, I won’t get the promotion which means I won’t be able to buy the new house for my family or send my children to college….” Our minds can create mini movies of doom and gloom, which  derail any hope of productivity in that moment. Have you noticed that all your anxiety about the way things will turn out never changes the result anyway? To achieve greater results requires staying focused in the present moment and putting all of your attention on the action you choose, and then performing that action the best you can. Then regardless of the result, consider it a data point, new information to help you choose your next best action toward your desire goal. 

Case #1 - Francis, a teacher at a local high school who is married with one son, shared:

Our actions matter. Unless we make good choices, we are more likely to have bad outcomes to situations. The fact is that we do not control what results come from our choices and actions. We would be wise to accept a power greater than ourselves so that we do not stress ourselves over the uncontrollable outcomes of our actions. All we can do is make the best choices possible, and hope for the best. Forgetting this principle, that I cannot control the world around me, no matter how good my choices and actions are, has caused me some considerable stress over the years. In the past, when I made a choice and took action, I stressed over whether I would achieve the result I wanted so much that I began to suffer from anxiety. I drove myself crazy, rethinking everything, wondering whether I did things right and what would happen to me if it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. For years, this mental model was very damaging because when things did not go my way, I felt that I had failed personally and now I know that that is not true. Lately, I have focused only upon what I can do, my choices in any given moment. This means that I have been experiencing less stress over what should happen, and have been able to take more joy in outcomes that are less than what I originally desired or expected. The fact is that I can control very little other than my actions.

purchased at IStock Photos
Source: purchased at IStock Photos

Case #2 - Cynthia, a married mother of three in her mid-30s who is a director of a call center, had the following moment of insight in response to this principle:

I certainly think I can control the results of my actions. I have many preconceived notions about what the result should be when I act a certain way. This mostly plays out for me in how I think others should respond to me based on my actions. If I am nothing but nice and generous with someone, then they should recognize it. If I help someone out, I should be promoted. These expectations on my part have often led me to feel disappointment and hurt when what I expected didn’t happen. That disappointment and hurt causes me to act differently the next time the situation occurs. The only thing I can do is control my own actions. I will never be able to control how other people react to me or what result my action might bring. Accepting this reality is going to help me not feel hurt or disappointed when the results I expected don’t happen. There are always factors contributing to that result that I can do nothing about. I can’t take it personally when someone forgets to thank me for something I did, or when I don’t get that promotion that I felt I should. The other person could have been distracted and merely forgot to thank me. Maybe I wasn’t promoted because the company is actually downsizing, or there is some other opportunity that I should be looking into. All I can do is make sure that I am doing the best that I can, and the results will be what they are. Accepting this principle, not just the previous two principles, will allow me to be nicer to myself. By taking personally things that are really outside my control, I’m only hurting myself. I am starting to realize that I need to ban the word “should” from my vocabulary and thinking. There are no shoulds, there is only  “what is.” To be objective is to accept “what is,” and then move on.

The final blog in this Principles of Objectivity series will be Principle #4 - Everything is Connected and Interrelated which can help you rethink the way you think about yourself.  Is it possible that you have made a mistake about who and what you are? 

Excerpt from: The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are.