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Rule 4: Make Your Share of Mistakes

Changing the way you think about failure or making mistakes can open a world of possibilities. Too often people are afraid of making mistakes and because they are afraid they don't try. Or they quit. As a result, they may not make a mistake but they also don't succeed.

Success requires mistakes. If you only do what you know will work you really aren't achieving anything new. You are only repeating what has been done before. Therefore, if you desire to be truly successful in life, you need to make your share of mistakes.

How can mistakes help you?

1) Mistakes teach. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and many other useful products, said when he struggled with creating the light bulb “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” By eliminating what didn't work he was able to create what could work.

When we make mistakes we have the opportunity to learn something new. How can something be bad if it is teaching you something valuable? You can choose to embrace the possibility of mistakes. Try, fail, and learn from it. Success is often the result.

Make Your Share of Mistakes 2) Mistakes provide possibilities. Another quote from Edison, who persisted no matter whether he succeeded or not: “Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.” Mistakes or failures can often provide something of value when you examine the mistake rather than ignore it or give up.

A word that I love both because of the sound of it as well as the meaning is “serendipity.” It means to find something unexpectedly. This often means that a mistake of some sort occurred.

For instance, famous psychological experiments by Pavlov in which he defined the concept of classical conditioning were begun due to a perceived failure in the experimental process. Classical conditioning, which may seem fairly obvious now, is when you pair one event with another it will create the same response to the paired event. For instance, if you pair ringing a bell with feeding a dog eventually the dog will expect to be fed when the bell is rung.

However, the classical conditioning research was undertaken due to what Pavlov thought was a mistake in his experimental design. He was studying digestion in dogs and found that he was having difficulty measuring the saliva because the dogs started salivating when the technicians prepared the food rather than when they began eating. Long story short, he discovered the theory of classical conditioning serendipitously by trying to determine what the problem was in his experimental design.

3) Mistakes may not be failures. Mistakes could be one step in the process that may look like a mistake just because the desired outcome hasn't been achieved yet. Again, Thomas Edison (seemingly an authority on failure and yet ultimately so successful) said “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Do not assume that just because you have not succeeded right away that you have failed. I often see this occur with my clients who are trying to make major changes in their lives. What they see as failure I often see as success because it is a necessary step toward their goal. For example, a client who is working on controlling his temper may say, “I messed up and yelled at my son” and I might respond “But you were aware of it right away and even apologized.” I recognize that the more this person is aware of his behavior the more likely he will be able to control himself in the future. Therefore, the fact that he noticed his behavior and took responsibility is a success.

If you change thinking about making mistakes, you can achieve so much more whether in your personal life or your professional life. Learn to think of making your share of mistakes because that means that you are trying, you are making an effort. The more you try, the more opportunity you have to succeed. The most successful people in life are also those who have made more mistakes. However, mistakes don't hold them back but help them to focus their attention on discovering the next step to take.

Think of mistakes as decisions. Not all will work out the way you want. But all can be opportunities for success. When you learn from mistakes, they aren't really failures, are they?

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)--page 1

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
"...happiness doesn't come with fireworks and a parade. Instead, it sneaks in quietly as the night so that you don't realize it has been there for awhile."

The first and most important key to finding happiness may be the most difficult for many people (especially those reading this article): To find happiness you must not seek it! In other words, the more you try to find happiness, the more it will elude you. I think Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) said it best, “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

However, don't be discouraged. You can do many things to create a life where happiness is more likely to find you. Yet, the same caveat applies: If you do everything for the purpose of finding happiness, you may achieve much, but you are not likely to find happiness. Researcher Mauss and colleagues (2012) who found that the higher the value a person places on being happy, the more likely they are to be unhappy, stated, “encouraging a mindset to maximize happiness (as some “self-help” books do) may be counterproductive.”

The reason happiness becomes elusive the more you strive for it is due to creating a fixed desire of achieving happiness. If you have read some of my previous articles, you know that a fixed desire is a demand that something has to occur, or be true, or be achieved in order to be happy. Demands, or “shoulds,” are irrational thinking styles that create conditions for stress and unhappiness. Most of the time these demands take the form of “To be happy, I must be thin and wealthy” or “I must find the love of my dreams” or “I must have a fulfilling job.” In fact, a fixed desire can be almost anything. It could be "I should feel good today" or "My son should get an A on his exam."

However, typically the demands are not completely under the control of the individual and/or they are externally focused which means that the individual may not be able to make these things occur even with a great deal of effort. Therefore, this demand attitude allows happiness to be at the whim of the external world.

In the case of happiness itself, many people make the attainment of happiness a fixed desire: “I must be happy.” However, it is only when we realize that we don't need to be happy that we can find happiness. As William Saroyan (1908-1981) said in My Heart's in the Highlands “The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.”

The difference between a fixed desire and a desire or a goal is that the latter doesn't connect personal happiness with the outcome. For instance, a person may desire to find a fulfilling job but doesn't demand that it has to occur.

Interestingly, people who have desires rather than demands may be more likely to achieve their goals (Berg, Janoff-Bulman, & Cotter, 2001) possibly because they are more motivated and less discouraged. When the very essence of happiness is dependent upon the achievement of a goal, striving towards that goal can be quite overwhelming and even frightening: “What if I fail?”

The one time I experienced test anxiety was just as I started to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that would affect my entrance into graduate school to become a psychologist. Just before I picked up my pencil, I said to myself, “This is the most important test you will ever take. If you don't do well, your life will be ruined.” My anxiety shot up as I opened the booklet to read the first question which might as well have been written in Russian because I couldn't comprehend a single word. Fortunately, I knew enough about self-talk and recognized what I had done to myself, so I put my pencil down, did five minutes of deep breathing and told myself, “This test doesn't matter. If you fail, all it means is that your life will take a different path.” That is the difference between a fixed desire and a desire.

The Tau te Ching (also known as “The Book of the Way” which I think of as early cognitive therapy) states, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” If you reflect on this statement you may realize that to give everything up, you must also give up the desire to be given everything. Very paradoxical and mind-boggling, isn't it? But that is the first step: To find happiness you must not seek it.

Similarly, Charles Dickens stated in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, “Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”

However, that being said, let's discuss how to achieve happiness. Actually, how to create the conditions so that happiness can find you. The work to finding happiness is to remove the obstacles to happiness. READ MORE: page 2

Intro  to Secret of Happiness--page 1

What Is Happiness?--page 2

Is Happiness Possible for Everyone?--page 3

What Intentional Behaviors Can Influence Happiness?--page 4

How Do You Choose Which Intentional Behaviors to Pursue?--page 5

A Final Word About How to Know Happiness When it Finds You--page 6

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

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