BY CAROL QUINN
In tough economic times, like we have been experiencing, many people have feared losing their job. For employers who have had to cut back, they had to choose who got to stay and who goes. For some companies, the deciding factor is based on performance - the top performers get to stay. So, the question that begs to be asked is how do those ‘A’ Players do it? How do they produce better results while others can’t or won’t. Interestingly, it’s what the High Achiever doesn’t know that just might provide the greatest insight.
The first thing we must get out of the way is…achievement is not about luck. Nor is it about smooth and easy sailing. When the road turns difficult, those who achieve less typically use these difficulties as the reason for their lack of success. Yet under the same conditions high performers are able to achieve the goal. If difficulties are the constant, why do some people fail while others succeed? Achieving in the face of adversity negates the lesser performer’s alibi. To suggest that the determining factor in an outcome is the presence or absence of hindrances holds no credibility. To insinuate success is determined by extenuating circumstances implies that people are powerless puppets. Every time someone offers up an excuse or blames circumstances for an outcome they paint this picture. Placing blame is a tactic used to disown personal responsibility. This tactic uses powerlessness as a means to divert attention. It shifts the focus off of self and onto a convenient decoy.
As harmless as it may seem, the greatest damage is done to the one placing blame. Often considered socially acceptable and no big deal, its impact on achievement is destructive. It shuts down a process that must take place in order for a person to move past their challenges. This places them in a holding pattern or at a stand still. Without forward progress all you can do is repeat over and over again what you’ve already done. It’s the proverbial hamster on a wheel. Unless it’s success that you are repeating, this is not how achievement comes about.
All of us encounter difficult obstacles when pursing a goal. There is always struggle and lack of know-how that can last for a while. What each person finds difficult varies as well. Not knowing how to successfully handle a difficulty has a way of taking us out of our comfort zone. At some point in the process, feelings of discomfort inevitably arise causing us to squirm and question our ability…or lack of it. This is normal and typically occurs when the obstacles appear. Some people are quick to react as a way to halt this discomfort. Others act like a dear in headlights unable to move. Unequipped to handle the challenge, they mistaken their anxiety as being a bad sign that “it’s not meant to be”. It’s their “I can’t” way of thinking that declares the goal impossible to achieve…so why bother trying. Often times the decision to do this is an unconscious one. Initially they may feel better but a down side exists. Their reaction is counterproductive to achievement. It solves nothing and a learning opportunity is squandered. Their reaction to “the squirm” feels like the natural thing to do at the time, but in fact, it sabotages any chance of success. When a poor outcome follows, people aren’t just disappointed. They are shocked and dumbfounded as well. It’s as if they believe their flight response was logical, correct and had no ill effect on their outcome. They ignore the fact their reaction did nothing to resolve their difficulty and write-off the outcome as merely being bad luck.
Each challenging situation requires a response. There is no such thing as no response. Doing nothing is a response. The effectiveness of our reaction is determined not by our opinion or our justification of it but rather by the outcome it produces. Each disappointing outcome holds a lesson or opportunity to learn something that we did not already know. Each desirable outcome gives encouragement and wisdom to share. Learning the lessons involve some personal ownership, correct analysis, an understanding of what was done right and figuring out what must change. Success always involves problem-solving and learning something new. Trial and error, with the emphasis on error, is part of the process until the desired result is achieved. “Never give up” is a saying that comes from those who’ve successfully made the journey. Life has a way of continuously presenting us with opportunities to try again and again. We can either move forward or run-in-place. It all depends on how we choose to respond to obstacles. Refusing to learn is like the game of Monopoly, “you cannot pass ‘Go’ and collect $200″ until you do learn. I am convinced it’s God’s way of helping us to comprehend and master our great power to create and evolve. Each challenge we step into and conquer increases our confidence. It’s as if life wants us all to know how much power we really do have to achieve our goals and live to our full potential.
For me, I know when I’m in a situation that makes me squirm. My mind makes a monster out of it. “Heck…Yes!” retreating makes sense. Mustering the courage to stay is the first change I have to make. This is a confusing time and an important fork-in-the-road in the process of achievement. Instead of doing what I’ve always done and expecting a different outcome this time, I’m the one who must change and do something different. I have to recognize and stop my auto-reaction that still seems so right. I have to learn a new way. I know what doesn’t work but don’t know what does. This is the learning that must take place in order for each of us to achieve our goals. Placing blame is a statement that declares “I’m not the one who needs to learn something!” Blaming and learning do not coexist.
Once you become aware of your automatic reaction and its impact, you can begin to learn how to produce more desirable outcomes for yourself. Personally, I have trouble seeing what I need to alter in order to improve my results, so I seek advice. I asked for another point of view. I carefully picked someone who has achieved success in the area I want to. I realize getting the right advice will speed up my learning and reduce the agony that comes with repeated failure. I listen carefully to what my adviser has to say. I don’t interrupt or use the time to defend my choice of behavior. I listen intently and learn what they did to succeed. I process the information knowing my outcome will still fall back on me. I have to make up my own mind what to do. It’s amazing. I have found that when the student is ready, the teacher does appear. It’s the student’s responsibility to make the contact. With gratitude and appreciation, I recognize the gift of wisdom my mentors have given to me. When you are open and receptive, you will discover that those who have succeeded did something you did not and they are typically willing to share it. What may initially seem like a subtle or inconsequential difference can be the nugget of wisdom that propels you forward.
Learning is important but it’s not the final step. You must apply what you’ve learned. This can be the toughest test of all. There are huge implications that keep people from taking this step. If these changes do indeed produce a better outcome then it truly means you have, and always have had, the power to affect your outcomes. Ponder that ramification for a moment. As much as achievement and success are desired, some people are not yet willing to accept the reality of who they are and what they really can do. It’s a BIG responsibility and it contradicts much of what we have learned in our past. Coming out of the darkness of denial and stepping into the light of truth makes the need to place blame elsewhere obsolete. To ‘own’ failure involves righting oneself through learning and implementing the track that produces the desired outcome…and with no more excuses for why not. Put another way - you must step up to the plate. What you can’t or don’t learn from a mentor, you can always figure out by tapping into the great power of your own mind. It’s there you can find clarity, direction and solutions. Seek and you will find for there is always a source for a remedy. My greatest hope is that you come to understand this…if you do not already.
How you respond to adversity may be more of a statement about your willingness, or unwillingness, to acknowledge your own power. What the High Achiever doesn’t know can teach us a lot. The High Achiever doesn’t already know how to hurdle obstacles. They don’t know how to deal with their difficulties. They don’t know how to resolve their problems. And they don’t know how handle situations that make them squirm any better than you or I. The wisdom is…they are us. We are all the same. The very nature of achievement places all of us into situations that make us squirm. When we miss the mark, it’s our willingness to acknowledge our role and to seek greater wisdom that makes it possible for us to correct our path. We stop focusing on changing others and start changing ourselves as the way to achieve. This is the simple wisdom that enable High Achievers to produce better outcomes. It could be said the purpose of achievement is to lure each of us to awaken and make the changes that will lead to the ultimate discovery for all of mankind - the revealing of our great power…to ourselves.
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