Have you ever wondered why failures incapacitate you?
Does negativity often get the best of you?
Is your mind-devil tricking you into losing time and again?
If so, this piece has got you covered in every way with a simple yet effective 3 step synthesis for overcoming the loss frame.
1 Step 1 – Think Like a Loser
Yes, you heard that right. You must first get into the skin of your enemy to combat it.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” – Viktor Frankl (1)
Despite the powerful words from the wise, the losers continue to indulge in unhealthy attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and behavioral patterns. Caught in a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, they seldom use their wisdom but blindly follow their faulty beliefs. The consequent vulnerability culminates in a loss frame. It is the fundamental tendency of the world to tilt towards the negative. Let’s for a minute consider the classic analogy of a half-filled glass. How would you describe it? Think about it. Would it be half empty or half full? Research suggests that a majority would describe it as half empty. Now if you do happen to be amongst the minority who believe in seeing the brighter side of the things, then give yourself a proud pat on the back. Also, I reckon you are quick enough to drink from the half-full glass before someone else does.
Jokes apart, we are at the mercy of conventional wisdom for understanding the fundamentals of life. As they say, “Pain is inevitable, but the suffering is optional.” However, it is appalling to learn that most of us choose to suffer. Furthermore, losers reverberate on failures. Once in the loss frame, it takes a long time to recover from it. In sharp contrast, we tend to slip into failures much easily. The 2008 economic recession is a classic illustration of the half-filled glass analogy. It was evident that consumer confidence plummeted as the recession hit the economy. However, consumer confidence continued to decline years after even though the economy had recovered. Hence proved, that the conversion time taken to recover from the losses is considerably longer.
Before we go on to understanding the resolution, let’s attack the problem first.
What causes faulty belief systems?
Our thinking patterns are highly deceiving, the illustration of which could take multiple forms as follows -
- Hosting a Self-Pity Party –
Self-pity is self-sabotaging. Nevertheless, pitying others is equally demeaning. So much so that it aggravates into a vicious addiction. I’m sure all of us have those attention seekers in our social groups, who succumb to immense pleasure in hosting their self-inflicted miseries to the world. One word of caution against such cry babies – STAY AWAY! Such people reek of negativity to an extent that it spills over and affects the significant others in their life.
- Unhealthy Beliefs about the Others –
Although our needs are limited, our wants are unlimited. As the infinite wants overpower human nature, we succumb to greed. Greed is a viral misery that remains interminably unsatiated. Moreover, it leads us to believe in things about others that might not necessarily be true. Unfair comparisons, feelings of resentment, mistrust, insecurity, and envy culminate from the base emotion of greed. The Crises of Trust experienced by the corporates exemplifies the very factor of greed. The sheer act of sharing information with others could imply a weakening of a personal power base. Hence, we tend to refrain from it or do it cautiously. Truth be told, such unhealthy beliefs are a reflection of personal limitations. It’s like comparing the apples with oranges. The more we fail to acknowledge and accept ourselves in all our crudeness, the more susceptible we are to view others as less deserving. There is no end to playing the blame game. However, at the expense of losing personal credibility.
- Unhealthy Beliefs about the World –
The universe only conspires to give back in equal measures to the energies we exude in it. Holding our ecosystems responsible for our mishaps is synonymous with shirking personal accountability. Such a distorted view of the world often takes the form of dysfunctional conflict and disrupts social thinking. Acts of terrorism, heinous crimes, and anti-social movements resonate with this kind of exaggerated villainy.
Therefore, Lesson no 1 -
Research your failures and failures. You are sure to identify the fundamental links.
2 Step 2 – Be the Change You Want to See
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl (2)
Challenging situations place us on the receiving end of our lives. However, a lot of what happens on the edges has less to do with the situation itself and more to do with us. We are not afraid of the challenge per se but traumatized by the nature of threats associated with it. Any physical, financial, emotional threat to ourselves or our loved ones are perceived as a red alert to personal wellbeing. Nevertheless, humans take immense pleasure in dealing with challenges to keep themselves motivated. When threatened, our coping mechanisms get activated, triggering one of the 3 defenses namely fight, flight, or freeze. Under extreme and overwhelming circumstances, depending upon the individual threshold some may even faint. Regardless of the coping style that one adheres to, it is just so interesting to note the diversity of reactions to the same situation. Thus, coping is strategizing to adapt to a changed or a changing situation embarking upon a paradigm shift in expectations, thoughts, and actions. The ones who choose to be flexible and adapt are the ones who eventually survive. Popularly known as the Capacity for Existential Flexibility, it helps us make immediate strategic shifts for long-term adaptation. Adapting to difficult situations gives us the prowess to be in charge of these situations rather than letting the situations control the course of our lives. However, the ones who fail to adapt, get sucked into the vicious hole of the loss frame.
The pertinent question, however, is how do we overcome the loss frame?
Let’s indulge in some food for thought -
- Deal with the “Bam Moments” –
The Bam Moments are the abrupt, unforeseen disruptions, changing our life a whole 360 degrees. It could be well compared to the climax scene of a movie, where the protagonist is seen struggling through a setback and finally emerges from it as a rising phoenix. Be prepared for the Bam Moments like the loss of a loved one, separation, divorce, an unforeseen fatal accident, loss of a job, or even the most sought after promotion. Well, it’s not as easy as it seems in the movies, but worth the effort. Developing good mental habits is integral to dealing with the crisis. The secret to developing good habits is to begin by making a list of the bad habits that are holding you back. Once you know what is detrimental to your progress and get rid of it, forming good habits is just a matter of practice.
- Mind Your Words –
Spoken and written words seldom retreat. The most resilient parasite in the world highly contagious in nature is not a virus but an idea rooted through the power of written, spoken, and silent words. Are you choosing your words carefully? Words can be our best friends or foes. Hence, engage with strong affirmations and positive wordplay.
- Be Grateful –
We are so consumed with finding faults in others, and ourselves that we often forget to be appreciative of things as they exist. There is no such thing as 100% happiness or perfection in existence. Be grateful for what you have. Practice gratitude by making a list of things in your life that you are thankful for. It could be your family and friends, your special talents, your unique personality, a job on hand, meaningful professional associations, and everything that may be obvious to the world but oblivious to you. Making healthy comparisons with others less privileged than you could also help. Although it is good to have soaring aspirations, one must never forget to reinforce the idea of finding happiness in small things.
- Humourize Your Challenges –
Ever wondered, why senior citizens are increasingly joining laughter clubs and therapies? Besides the fact that laughter and smile are highly contagious, medical research has authenticated a positive correlation between laughter and longevity. Humour is medicine. However, the impact of humor is not just limited to mainstream medicine. The genre of dark comedy originates from the idea that the audience naturally gravitates towards the aura of humorous protagonists caught in their odds. Humor uplifts us and gives us the energy to push through our challenges. Seeing the lighter side of things despite the gravity of the situation not only helps deal with stress but also reflects sportsmanship.
- Overcome the Listening Paradox –
Listening is an integral part of communication. The irony, however, is that we listen to react and seldom understand. There is a thin line of difference between reactiveness and responsiveness. The latter is always preferred to the former as it arises from perceptive thinking. Pareto's 80:20 rule fits like a missing piece of the puzzle for effective communication. 80% listening and 20% talking makes for an optimum communication mix.
- Practice Compassionate Empathy –
The difference between sympathy and empathy is quite pronounced. We all know of those sympathy seekers and givers who leave no stone unturned to exaggerate losses. For someone going through an irreparable loss or sickness, sympathy can be far more impairing. It is like adding salt to their fresh wounds and disempowers the recipient. Not only is sympathy seeking unhealthy but expressing sympathy is equally or more disruptive. It only aggravates the losses for the person receiving it. Empathy on the other hand is all about compassion and resonance building. Empathetic listening is placing yourself in other’s shoes and experiencing their reality as your own. In other words, empathizing is compassion without exaggeration. The point being, people want to be heard in a comforting and confidential environment to move beyond their losses. However, they certainly do not want to be belittled, demeaned, or even receive unwanted advice.
- Be a Santa to Your Network –
Would you like to receive some positive news today? What would be your spur of the moment reaction to this question? People tend to look forward to hearing positive news all the time. Research suggests a positive correlation between positive news and health. Positive news and outcomes increase the dopamine levels in our bloodstream and act as instant mood boosters. The ripple effect thus created is mutually beneficial to both the news bearer and receiver. Hence, we must initiate being the Santa to our network by rehearsing to share more positive news with the people we know. It could be a simple token of appreciation or gratitude towards others, or genuine good news. A gradual fix is to make a conscious effort to replace all negative news and gossip with a healthy exchange of intelligence.
- Prioritize on Catharsis –
Emotions have been advocated as a sign of weakness for ages. It is a disturbing revelation to learn that our society condemns emotional expressiveness in public. The stigma that is associated with being emotionally crude distorts perceptions of the self and others. Since childhood, men reprimanded for being emotional and compared to their female counterparts are some of the antagonistic analogies that have restrained many from coming out in the open about their mental health. No doubt, such remarks are equally demeaning and unfair culminating in extreme instances of gender bias, domestic violence, rape, and suicides. Let’s get to the reality check. Suppressed emotions do more harm than good. If left unattended or repressed, emotions manifest in an aggravated form of temper tantrums, emotional outbursts, immaturity, and severe personality impairments in the long-run. Therefore, one must not confuse emotional repression with emotional intelligence. Venting the negative energy by opening up, disclosing, and sharing our concerns with the significant others who genuinely care is quintessential to mental sanity. It frees you from your mental clutches and helps you evolve.
- Reflect and Introspect –
Reflection is recreating by revisiting our thoughts and actions, while self-introspection is an approach to self-awareness. It is a highly insightful process yet may be depressing all the same as it reveals the bitter truth about us. Although most of us believe we introspect, it is revelatory to learn that we are not doing it the right way. How we interrogate our life struggles or failures determines our course of recovery from the loss frame. The good news is that a quick fix does exist. Whether you fail an important exam, ruin a job interview, meet with an accident, receive bad news about your loved ones, are healing from a toxic relationship, or are unable to get along with your boss, there is always a solution. Don’t ask yourself why it happened? instead, ask what can you do about it? A simple paradigm shift attacks the root cause of the problems for a constructive resolution.
- Anchor your Past –
The past is history which does not exist in the present reality. The more we brood over the past mishaps, the more we breed future failures. We must learn to let go of the past to release all our suffering. In mainstream psychology, hypnosis experts specialize in past life regression techniques to unwind the past and alleviate the present. Nevertheless, humans are addicted to a constant thread of comparing their present with their past circumstances, materialistic possessions, success, and even the quality of relationships they have had. The greater the incongruence between the two, the wider will be the expectation gap of happiness. The linear equation of happiness with our past is well exemplified by the rags to riches stories or by the tales of the once rich now bankrupt. Undeniably, overthinking about the past is toxic. However, it is also our best teacher. We learn some of life’s most profound lessons by reflecting on our past experiences. It shields us against future failures. However, we must overcome all our unhealthy perceptions of the past to combat the loss frame mindset.
- Visualize Your Goals –
We simply manifest what exists in our subconscious mind. However, our subconscious mind does not understand the difference between the real and the imagined. Visuals are powerful tools that help us articulate the road-map to success and remind us to expend effort in pursuit of our goals. We can visualize by asking ourselves simple questions -
- How would it feel like to have your manifestations filled?
- How would it smell?
- How would it sound like?
- Restructure your Mindset –
It is often not due to a lack of creativity or potential but a fixed mindset that a majority of us fail. We further get stuck in our failures as we do things the fixed way. Unfortunately, most of our ecosystems advocate a fixed mindset be it in education, business, or sports where trainees are rewarded for scoring marks and following the protocol. The education system is broken in the sense that it tests us on making mistakes with negligence towards facilitating genuine improvement. Somewhere, we need to rationalize the over-emphasis on labels and tags to overcome a fixed mindset. In sports too, when the talented players lose to the less talented ones, it is not because of the drought of their talent but because they stop trying. A growth mindset can be cultivated by rewarding engagement behavior and effort, instead of faulting performance as black and white.
- Embrace Diversity and Inclusion –
Tolerance is a virtue. Most people fail due to a lack of perspective on it. Conveying an attitude of respect and equal opportunities for all is important irrespective of the differences in religion, culture, caste, creed, community, socio-economic status, ethnicities, physical attributes, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Having closed groups of likable people may facilitate cooperation, however, at the expense of collective wisdom. In sports, you may win games with individual talent but only teamwork will win you championships. Similarly, as a corporate citizen, you don’t get to choose your bosses and colleagues. The beauty lies in embracing the diversity of opinions leading to high-quality decisions.
- Fortify Your Self Belief –
Often heard but wondered why you must believe in yourself? Maybe it’s not that easy. Of course, it isn’t. However, success indeed belongs to those who believe in themselves. It all starts with envisioning your goals. Ask yourself what you want and the thoughts that follow will either limit or enhance your potential achievement. The journey to building self-belief is a process that involves recruiting enough social support from the well-wishers who stand by you like honesty barometers. These are the accountability partners and facilitators who stand by you like pillars. They help you deal with your energy vampires or dream thieves. Ultimately, there is a critical choice you need to make between staying a victim of your circumstances or becoming the master of your destiny. It is all about overcoming self-sabotage and negative self-talk by framing your lifestyle based on good habits. Speaking the language of ownership based on auto-suggestions by using phrases like “ I am/ I can/ I will” develops strong self-beliefs. The equation is simple - Healthy beliefs reinforce good habits and good habits lead to considerable achievements.
Therefore, Lesson no 2 - If you change the way you look at things, the things that you are looking at will change.
3 Step 3 – Fake It Till You Make It
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl (3)
The mother-child bond is rather absurd. Oh no! please don’t get me wrong. I love my mother a lot. However, I’ve always wondered how miraculous it must be to love another human as unconditionally as our mothers do. As inexplicable as it may seem, a parenting relationship has its highs and lows too. What makes it unique is that a mother always chooses to forgive no matter what. Building her children piece by piece like a puzzle, she acts out of extreme care, empathy, and compassion towards her little ones with no expectations in return. She genuinely believes in giving. Now you may well counter me by saying that the selfless analogy of a mother is farfetched one and in no means can be generalized. Well, I do agree to a large extent. However, the point that I’m trying to make is that motherhood also takes a lot of resilience, tremendous patience, and sleepless nights to push it through. I’m sure all the wonderful mothers out there reading this post would agree with me. So, then what happens when we are dealing with people and their circumstances in general?
We Give In, Give Up, or Quit on Them! The lack of perseverance may also result in the loss frame.
Moreover, perseverance takes practice. Let’s understand how –
- Combat the Catastrophizing Phenomenon –
Catastrophising is fast-forward thinking to the worst possible case scenario. It is a highly deceiving mind trap. Sometimes, the prism of our faulty beliefs and perceptions compels us into catastrophizing the existing situation. The consequences are premature anxiety and acute to chronic stress. However, not all anxiety is bad. The theory on Survival of the Fittest testifies the significance of the fear instinct to sense, compete, and survive the potential danger. It is only when the anxiety starts having a debilitating impact on our lives that it forces us to reconsider solutions. As a saving grace, the optimum solution does exist. We can combat the catastrophizing phenomena with an affirmative focus. When feeling doomed think about your previous positive experiences. Changing the focal point of your thoughts may seem easier said than done. However, it’s worth the conscious effort.
- Play the Infinite Game –
Implicated by the famous leadership coach Simon Sinek, “Most people don’t know the game they are playing.” Falling into the losers trap is a natural outcome for individuals and businesses consistently obsessed with their competition. We must learn to acknowledge and accept failures with as much integrity as we enjoy success. Knowing that you may win sometimes and occasionally lose is the heart of the infinite game. Furthermore, the theory suggests that it is ok to lose a few games in favour of winning the ultimate battle. Long-term success requires consistent learning to become the best version of yourself. Successful businessmen like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, etc, epitomize the fundamentals of the Infinite Game Theory. Their success mantra is to get inspired by competition, yet focus on the individual goals.
- Rehearse Positive Perceptions –
Ever wondered why individual perceptions differ? The question has intrigued psychologists over the years, making it the subject matter of several psychological tests. One such test popularly knows as TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) involves a unique testing technique. The subjects of this test are required to assert their responses in narratives after viewing ambiguous pictures. The proponents of the test assert that individual perceptions are often a reflection of ones’ underlying motives, concerns, and the social view of the world. So, can the negative perceptions be changed? Yes, of course. Deliberate intervention to see the positive even in the most negative illustrations could help consequently correct the faulty perceptions.
- Relative Weightage of Importance and Duration –
We are indeed the masters of our destiny. The quantum of our success versus failure depends on the relative degree of perceived importance given to both instances. Take a moment to monitor your intra-personal dialogue. You’d be surprised to learn about the quality and the frequency of your thoughts. We fail to optimize our potential because we are not self-aware of the negative self-talk occurring in our minds. Auto-suggestions play a significant role in determining our outcomes. Reinforce the positive auto-suggestions and realize miracles.
- Transit from Dream Mode to Development Mode –
Success belongs to those who dare to dream. Dreaming is believing. Agreed that it all starts with an idea. However, there is more to it. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is unless you extend effort in pursuit of it. In other words, a dream that lacks execution fails. The speed of implementation is equally or more critical to transcending your dreams into realities.
- Set High Standards –
The difference between people is their standards. High standards attract high aspirations and high achievements. On the contrary, low standards attract low motivation, failures, and consequent disappointments. Having no ambition is a perfect recipe for disaster. Therefore, set your standards high based on your life’s purpose. Never settle for never or less. Do whatever that it takes to realize your dreams. Have role models, study high achievers, learn from your mentors, maintain a healthy company, etc. Always remember that your network determines your net worth.
- Covert Pressure into Pleasure –
Ever experienced those ticking moments in your life, when each second felt like an hour before that important client presentation, the racing of your heartbeat against the sound of your breath just a few minutes before that final call for an interview, or the adrenaline rush through your veins seconds before you play that critical match for your team? Sounds familiar? Well, the good news is that you are serious about things. Quite contrary to a laid back and casual attitude, a certain sense of discomfort pushes you to give your best. An optimum level of anxiety fosters good performance. The problem, however, arises when you start taking things a bit too seriously at the expense of your sole purpose of being. In sports, it is about playing a challenging match with all you have and not just to win. In business, it is about hustling hard with complete dedication to contribute to society and not just to earn profits. In relationships, it is about giving your quality time to your loved ones because you genuinely care about them and not just to avoid a heated argument with your spouse. Regardless of your journey to greatness, you must learn to deal with your pressure points by taking pleasure in the process of becoming what you’ve always aspired to be.
- Have a Backup Plan –
Okay, so what if life may not always give you a second chance? It certainly provides you ample opportunities. The more your obsess the more you loathe, but the more you explore there will be growth. Be courageous to acknowledge and accept your limitations. Furthermore, keep your alternate goals handy to bridge your need-gaps and control the magnitude of your losses.
- Recover Your Mind –
We often neglect the cognitive aspect of our recovery because psychological damage is relatively intangible. Our mind yearns for relaxation as much as our body does to recover, reboot, and re-engage. Mindfulness means paying kind attention to our thoughts. It is a therapeutic technique used for achieving mental hygiene by creating an environment free of external distractions, focussing all your awareness on the present moment, and calmly acknowledging all the feelings, thoughts, and body sensations as they occur. What lactic acid does to the tense muscles in our body, negative thoughts and feelings do to the cortical region of our brain. Research suggests that the mind wanders on an average 47% of the time making mindfulness difficult to achieve. However, transformation to a healthy mindset is possible if we practice mindfulness with compassion free from the negative feelings of resentment, impatience, judgment, shame, hatred, etc.
- Ritualize Good Habits –
We are characterized by the type of habits we possess. Habits are physical, emotional, financial, psychological, and behavioral. For example exercising, socializing, reading, writing, spending time with your loved ones, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, being in touch with your mentors, etc are examples of good habits. Allow me to reiterate, good habits are a conscious way of leading your life. They are difficult to acquire but make life easy in the long-run. Bad habits, on the other hand, are easy to acquire but do more harm than good. Choose your mental habits wisely and sustain good habits with practice.
Therefore, Lesson no 3 - What you practice, grows stronger.
In conclusion, it would be only fair to opine that the sheer act of winning or losing seldom defines you. The loss frame and the winning mindset are the split sides of human psychology integral to the lesson called life. What matters is the strength of your character to resist temptations, redefining boundaries against all odds, pushing the envelope against your so-called fate, and how frequently you rise each time you fall.