BY CAROL QUINN
High Performers succeed more. Is this a fluke? Are they special people? They obviously are different in some way because not everyone is able to perform at their level. Clearly they don’t blend with the 60% who are the average performers in the mid-section of the bell-shaped curve. But interestingly enough however, they don’t always stand out either. Take an interview for example. Many poor performers are hired by mistake, and who knows how many top performers get turned down. It would be much easier to identify the best if they all had a certain look, or always had the best skills - but they don’t. High performers are ordinary people but somehow they are able to produce extra-ordinary results. By learning where the breakdown to achievement occurs, we can gain great insight that can help us all achieve more of our goals.
Looking at achievement from the angle of failure provides many clues. Often viewed as being the opposite of success and negative, a closer examination reveals failure is neither. No one who tries for the first time succeeds without first encountering it. Failure therefore, is a part of success. It is neither negative nor positive but rather like success, is an outcome. Success means you got it right. Failure means you didn’t. Failure declares, “If it’s not the outcome you want, you have to learn what to do differently and try again…until you get it right!”
Some who read this understand it instantly. Others, however, need to give it more thought. ‘To learn what to do differently’ suggests that each person has power to cause outcomes. And it is here where the ordinary and the extraordinary begin to separate. Simple, yet complex, the process of achievement breaks down for many, often without ever realizing, with the concept that outcomes are not something that happens to us.The Breakdown:
- Deny contributing to or causing one’s own outcomes.
- Explain results by blaming it on someone or something else.
- Believe that for the results to change, the cause must change - and that means not them.
In this breakdown, the first one causes the second, and the second causes the third. The initial breakdown is when a person believes their results were absent of their contribution, and thusly places their focus solely on the external factors; they were late…because of bad weather or bad drivers. Blaming blocks the learning and change necessary to produce better results going forward (to be on time requires good time management and/or allowing more driving time). No one is surprised when a blindfolded marksman repeatedly misses his target, yet many who blame are shocked when their own results continuously fall short of their goal.
Achievement is not luck, hope or merely bestowed upon the optimistic. It’s the result of those who figure out how to get to their goal by learning why they didn’t, then making the appropriate changes as they continue trying.
Not quitting may be seen as admirable. However, how admirable is it to do what you have always done, hope for a better outcome and not get it. Tenacity alone is not enough. It can be like a hamster on a wheel - it never gives up but never gets anywhere either. Eventually, many grow tired and give up on their dreams. Blame, oftentimes considered a harmless way to save face, is a major saboteur of achievement because it obstructs learning. When you’re not the cause, you’re not the one who needs to change. The “it wasn’t my fault” perspective is, in essence, what is keeping that person in their own state of powerlessness through lack of knowledge and change.
So what can you do differently if you catch yourself blaming? First, change your thinking about blaming; it’s not benign. Its negative and its greatest impact will be on you. You must become consciously aware that you are doing it. In all outcomes, especially the failures, there lies both an opportunity to blame and a personal lesson to learn. Blaming puts off the learning you need to advance and you can’t go forward without it. Instead, you must wait for another opportunity to come around to learn what you missed, and this time you must choose to learn it. With intent, you must resist the urge to explain poor outcomes as being the fault of or caused by someone or something else. Learn to see the role you played and take ownership of it. If you can’t see it, keep looking. Ask for input from an accomplished and trustworthy source - trust me your contribution is there. It always is in one form or another. It’s can’t be ‘your’ results without your participation somehow. Maybe it’s something you did or should have done. Your awareness, not your denial, holds the key to unleashing your greatest potential. The biggest roadblock to success is typically not ‘out there’…but rather it’s our unwillingness to look within. For the longest time it was easy for me to blame my poor results on the obvious bad behavior of others. But then I looked at the fact that I was the one who was allowing these people to be around me. At first all I could see was the role they played. I wanted to control and alter them as the only way to improve my results. They never changed. Finally…I realized it was me who needed to do something different. I needed to find my voice and say “no” and if nothing happened then, I needed to find new people and that’s exactly what I did. It’s always our responsibility to minimize the negative effect others can have on us. Realizing that the external factors that are holding us back are not nearly as significant as the internal ones is the monumental shift in perspective that needs to take place in order for anyone to achieve greater success. Discovering our own power, and learning what we need to learn, begins with our own decision to change.
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