Why do we fail? And how do we fix it?

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As any successful person will honestly admit, I've had my share of failures. Since this column is limited to 750 words, I won't bore you with the details!

But from every failure I have learned an equally valuable lesson. The first lesson I learn is that there was at least one reason I failed. The second lesson I learn is that I can rebound from that failure.

According to Shiv Khera, author of "You Can Win," failures most often occur for one of the following seven reasons:

  • Lack of persistence. More people fail not because they lack knowledge or talent, but just because they quit. It is important to remember two words: persistence and resistance. Persist in what must be done and resist what ought not to be done. We all have had setbacks in life. Failing does not mean we are failures!
  • Lack of conviction. People who lack conviction take the middle of the road. But what happens in the middle of the road- You get run over. People without conviction go along to get along because they lack confidence and courage. They conform in order to get accepted even when they know that what they are doing is wrong.
  • Rationalizing. Winners may analyze but never rationalize. Losers rationalize and have a book full of excuses to tell you why they could not succeed.
  • Not learning from past mistakes. Some people live and learn, and some only live. Wise people learn from their mistakes. Failure is a teacher if we have the right attitude. I've always said experience is the name we give to our mistakes.
  • Lack of discipline. Anyone who has accomplished anything worthwhile has never done it without discipline. Discipline takes self-control, sacrifice and avoiding distractions and temptations. It means staying focused.
  • Poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem is a lack of self-respect and self-worth. People with low self-esteem are constantly trying to find themselves, rather than creating the person they want to be.
  • Fatalistic attitude. A fatalistic attitude prevents people from accepting responsibility for their position in life. They attribute success and failure to luck. They resign themselves to their fate, regardless of their efforts, that whatever has to happen will happen anyway.

The rebound lesson is the more pleasant part of the equation, but it is not without challenges. Here are Professor Mackay's lessons learned from the problems posed above:

1a. Try new approaches. Persistence is important, but repeating the same actions over and over again, hoping that this time you'll succeed, probably won't get you any closer to your objective. Look at your previous unsuccessful efforts and decide what to change. Keep making adjustments and midcourse corrections, using your experience as a guide.

2a. Decide what is important to you. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right and doing well. Let your passion show in even mundane tasks. It's ok to collaborate and cooperate for success, but it's not ok to compromise your values — ever.

3a. Change your perspective. Don't think of every unsuccessful attempt as a failure. Few people succeed at everything the first time. Most of us attain our goals only through repeated effort. Do your best to learn everything you can about what happened and why.

4a. Define the problem better. Analyze the situation—what you want to achieve, what your strategy is, why it didn't work and so on. Are you really viewing the problem correctly- If you need money, you have more options than increasing revenue. You could also cut expenses. Think about what you're really trying to do.

5a. Don't be a perfectionist. You may have an idealized vision of what success will look and feel like. Although that can be motivational, it may not be realistic. Succeeding at one goal won't eliminate all your problems. Be clear on what will satisfy your objectives, and don't obsess about superficial details.

6a. Don't label yourself. You may have failed, but you're not a failure until you stop trying. Think of yourself as someone still striving toward a goal, and you'll be better able to maintain your patience and perseverance for the long haul.

7a. Look in the mirror every day and say, "I am in charge." You may not have control over every phase of your life, but you have more control than you realize. You are responsible for your own happiness and success. As I like to say, your attitude determines your altitude!

Mackay's Moral: You can turn "down and out" into "up and at 'em."

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