Dr. Martin Seligman is a Psychologist most noted for his work in learned optimism and learned helplessness. He describes a mental state more powerful than self-esteem.
It’s called “explanatory style” and it means the way we think about causes.
Let’s say you’re working on a project at work that ends in a smashing failure. Ugh! We’ve all been there. What you do next and how you rationalize what just happened, is pivotal to how quickly you can recover and move on.
Blaming yourself or others affects your self-esteem.
Determining how permanent and pervasive the cause is affects the actions you take in response.
If you decide the situation is permanent, or the beginning of a new trend, you might just stop trying altogether. And that would be the real failure.
Permanent vs. Temporary
As a simple example, imagine you’ve just had a friend or a client cancel on you. If you have an explanatory style that sees setbacks as permanent, you might say:
“Everyone cancels on me.”
But if your explanatory style sees setbacks as temporary, you might say:
“There will always be cancellations and I accept that as part of the work I do.”
If you choose to believe the cause is permanent, you are likely to give up.
If you choose to believe the cause is temporary, you’ll take action to move forward – like picking up the phone and making new appointments.
Choose Your Response
Your belief in the permanence of any set-back will determine your response, and it is your response – the deliberate, intentional, specific steps you take next – that will determine if you succeed or fail.
So, here are some questions to ask yourself when disaster happens:
- What am I grateful for in this situation?
- How am I growing through this process?
- What good is coming out of this “disaster?”
- How can I best use this to move forward?
And here’s a quick video on the power of questions and why they work better than positive affirmations.
If you’d like to use questions even more effectively to set yourself up for success, take a listen to this podcast episode.