Have you ever wondered why some people become successful and others don’t? Well, who hasn’t? The problem is, we often assume that successful people have something we lack, be it extraordinary talent, money and connections or simply a lot of luck.
And sure, these things might help – but they’re not what success is made of. Rather, success is the result of resilience; the ability to face criticism and rejection when pursuing your goals. So says Mark McGuinness in his book, Resilience. Facing down rejection and criticism on the road to success, published in 2012. From his book, we’ll look at how you can build your resilience and achieve your dreams. Along the way, you’ll also gain some techniques that’ll help you achieve your goals, whatever those may be.
The three most powerful points I took from the book were;
Resilience is not an elusive quality that some people have and others lack. It’s a practice that you can build by refusing to give up, despite the rejection and criticism you encounter
The bigger the dream, the bigger the fear of taking the leap required to make it a reality. Make sure that your dream is something you are truly passionate about.
Whether it’s meeting new people, heights or public speaking, repeated exposure will gradually turn that fear into something you can tolerate
Moving past your fears.
Many of us had big dreams when we were young. We wanted to be athletes, musicians, astronauts or even a president or prime minister. Yet as the years go on, most of us settle for modest and unassuming jobs. The reason most people give up on those early dreams is fear. The bigger the dream, the bigger the fear of taking the leap required to make it a reality.
For example, the dream of being prime minister or president means entering the world of politics, which requires being comfortable speaking in front people, getting votes and the prospect of giving a speech before the members of congress or parliament. This all requires a lot of preparation, not to mention familiarity with the issues that are affecting people’s lives.
Naturally, it’s overwhelming just to think of all the dedication and hard work this would take. What if you get behind a podium and freeze up? Or worse, what if you say the wrong thing? There are so many possibilities for it all to go horribly wrong. So there are two options; you can either give up or you can face your fear. And, of these two options, one is clearly a whole lot easier. Most people give up.
Most people want to experience the dream without the fear, but this just isn’t possible. The only way to reach great heights is to stare down your fears and conquer them. Okay, so to get yourself started, try this visualization exercise, says McGuinness. Let’s say your dream is to be a novelist. Close your eyes and picture yourself taking the steps to make this dream come true. As you do this, you’ll feel that natural fear emerge, but instead of avoiding it, sit with it and accept it. Now, imagine yourself working through that fear and writing your book and, after long last, typing the words “The End.”
As you picture yourself finishing your goal, you’ll feel a surge of positive energy that will keep you on the path to your dream. And the fear and excitement of the undertaking will provide you with adrenaline, the fuel you’ll need to step up to the challenge that lies ahead.
Passion and Commitment.
If your dream is to be a Navy SEAL or a CIA agent, then it’s fair to say you have a life-threatening dream. If you’re chasing these kinds of goals, being prepared to die to make your dream come true is par for the course. But you need this passionate commitment even if your dream isn’t a real threat to your survival.
One thing’s for sure,says McGuinness, making a dream come true is hard work, requiring you to overcome obstacles and face levels of rejection and criticism that would break most people’s spirits. When these low points arrive, you’ll need to have a death-defying passion if you hope to continue. If you’re just testing the waters to see if you can put a talent to use, you won’t last long. And if you have as much passion as the average person, you’ll collapse before you reach the first hurdle.
So the first step is making sure that your dream is something you are truly passionate about. To make sure you’re properly prepared, here are some pointers. One of the most powerful dreams a person can have is to fight for justice and equality. There are few motivations as potent and as satisfying as helping others. So if your dream helps other people and is philanthropic in some way, you’ll have a better chance of keeping it alive when times get tough.
But it needn’t be a noble cause. People have accomplished amazing things by devoting themselves to things like setting a new world record in exploration or extreme sports. For others, all it takes is passion for starting their own successful, money-making business. Whatever it is, it must be a dream that you hold very dear, because you will face rejection. Your passion is what will keep you going.
Persevere in spite of rejection.
You know that dreadful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you receive a message that begins with the words, “We regret to inform you…” Rejections can be utterly crushing, but it’s important to remember that feelings of despair are completely normal.
When you’re rejected, of course you’ll take it personally and feel like the world is conspiring against you – like you’re the only one who’s getting picked on while everyone else is coasting along on easy street. But this isn’t an accurate picture of how things are.
The author has helped hundreds of people achieve their dreams over the years and each one felt that he was alone in experiencing rejection while everyone else was succeeding. The reality is, you’re not the only one trying to publish a book, get a record deal or launch a start-up. And since so many people are trying to do the same thing, the odds are that a lot of people will be getting rejected every day.
But this doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, the key to success is having resilience and persevering in the face of rejection. This is what separates the wannabes from the superstars. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected a dozen times, but King didn’t throw in the towel. He kept going and continued submitting the book until he found a publisher that agreed to take a chance on him. King isn’t alone – William Golding went through one rejection after another before he got his classic novel, Lord of the Flies, published. In short, there’s no sense in taking rejection as a sign of failure when it’s actually a normal part of the journey.
Keep challenging yourself.
If you have a fear of sharks, the last thing you’ll want to do is go deep-sea diving and surround yourself with great whites. But if you’re trying to overcome your fear of sharks – well, diving right in might not be such a bad idea. The emotion of fear can be overcome through the process of desensitization.
Psychologists began advocating desensitization when they discovered that fearful patients were getting good results after being repeatedly exposed to the source of their fear. Whether it’s meeting new people, heights or public speaking, repeated exposure will gradually turn that fear into something you can tolerate. This is important to remember in the pursuit of your dream, since you might think that you can never be an actor if you have crippling stage fright. If you continue to play roles, gritting your teeth and pushing yourself through it, by the tenth play you’ll be wondering what you were so afraid of.
Desensitization requires practice and a willingness to continually challenge yourself. The more you do this, the fewer fears and obstacles you’ll have separating you from your dreams. To get yourself started, create a list of everything you’d want to accomplish in life if there wasn’t anything standing in your way. Now do the visualization exercise again and imagine starting toward these goals and getting repeatedly rejected – but then, for one or two of your dreams, imagine being accepted. If just two out of ten dreams come true, the eight other rejections would be totally worth it, right?
Now that you have healthy perspective, you can get started on your dreams for real and begin sending in those applications for opportunities that trigger scary feelings. And when the inevitable rejection letter comes your way, you can celebrate it, knowing that you’re on the right path.
Become a better self-critic.
Have you ever given up on a dream, or even a hobby, because you thought you weren’t talented enough? We’re often our own harshest critic, but that criticism doesn’t always need to be negative. To help your criticism be effective, however, you need to take a step back, distance yourself from the work in question and look at it from a new perspective.
Leonardo da Vinci recommended this. He would set up a mirror so that he could look at a reflection of his latest painting. This offered da Vinci, quite literally, a new perspective; seeing the reverse image in the mirror allowed him to be objective and judge a painting as though he were seeing it for the first time.
Even walking away to look at your work from a distance can allow you to see things in a new light, and it doesn’t only apply to paintings. The author will regularly change formats during his writing process, starting with handwritten drafts, then moving to the computer screen and finishing with printouts that he’ll use to make edits. Each one of these new perspectives offers him a fresh look and a chance to notice improvements he didn’t see before.
Athletes and performers all use video and audio recordings after a game or show to pick out weaknesses that otherwise might go unnoticed. Taking some time away from your work is another recommended way of gaining perspective. Put down the pen or paintbrush and let your work rest for an hour – or even several days, if you can. When you return to it, you’ll find that you can now judge it with greater accuracy.
Many writers follow this advice and will even set up different periods of time for writing and editing. The poet Maya Angelou worked in two different phases: the first phase was during the day, when she would try to write at least twelve pages over a six-hour period. The second phase started hours later. From 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., she’d edit the day’s work into the three or four pages that were worth keeping.
Use your inner critic to your advantage.
There are many self-help books that demonize creative people’s inner critic, the voice within us that loves to criticize our own work. This voice often gets cast as a destructive force that can prevent us from ever being creative. But your inner critic doesn’t have to get in the way. In fact, it can be a great friend and ally.
After all, your inner critic is the one who pushes you to keep working and reworking until you’ve reached the best possible outcome. For the musician and producer Mike Monday, the difference between a good producer and a great producer is the ability to recognize the difference between high-quality and low-quality work. Drawing this distinction wouldn’t be possible without your inner critic.
The reason the inner critic gets a bad rap is because it can get overcritical before you’ve even begun, and this can convince you to not even bother trying. But if you befriend your inner critic, you can prevent this scenario from playing out. For example, if you notice that your inner critic is getting too negative, ask, “What do I need to do differently?” This forces the voice to be constructive rather than unhelpful, and you can use this feedback to make your work better.
Likewise, if the inner critic starts speaking up too early, when you’re only in the planning phase, tell it something like, “I hear you but I’m going to ignore you for now. We’ll talk later when there’s work to look at. Don’t worry, I won’t submit anything without going over it with you.” Also, make sure your inner critic voices opinions and isn’t trying to convince you of absolute truths. The criticism should be focused on precise problems, and it should always be respectful. If your inner critic is breaking these rules, don’t just take it – talk back! Tell it that, if it isn’t constructive, you won’t listen at all.
Have a healthy attitude toward success.
Close your eyes and think about the word “success.” What feelings and images does the word conjure up? It’s helpful to understand your preconceptions about success, because different people relate to it in different ways. And how you think about it will affect the way you pursue your dreams.
People generally perceive success in three different ways, and only one of them is positive. The first way to think of success is as something that’s superficial and morally reprehensible. This perspective recognizes the money and the luxury, but it also sees greed and corruption. The second way of viewing success is as something that’s far out of your reach. It’s like a mountain summit that only a select few can reach – but certainly not you. As you can see, this isn’t a motivating point of view.
Then there’s the healthy way of seeing success; as the act of achieving something great, whether it’s creating inspirational art, inventing a life-changing product or empowering people to be better. With this perspective on success, you can keep yourself on the right path. So, if you’re thinking negative thoughts about success, now’s the time to change those ideas.
When the author was a young man, he was an idealist, an aspiring poet who saw corporations and businesses as evil. Yet as he grew up, he realized he needed to be a successful businessman in order to sustain himself with freelance work. To help get the right perspective, he looked to Shakespeare as an example. Here was a great author who was also a savvy businessman, helping create a thriving theater company and investing his money wisely. The author began to understand that business and art needn’t be at odds with each other, and this made his life much easier.
Build up your confidence.
If you’ve ever believed that you’re not smart enough, brave enough or rich enough to pursue your dreams, it’s time to think again. The only quality necessary to go after that dream is a willingness to work hard. For some reason, many people believe there are specific qualities that a person must possess to pursue certain professions, but this is a misconception, says McGuinness.
We’ll often think a politician or actor must be an outgoing extrovert, but this is far from reality. The truth is that you don’t even need that much confidence before you begin pursuing your dream. When the author was 24 years old, he was told that he could be a therapist. At first, he was certain this was a mistake. Doesn’t a therapist need to be old, with a lot of experience? As it turns out, no. What’s really needed is curiosity and an inquisitive mind.
So the author started reading about hypnotherapy and, soon enough, he was enrolled in school and taking some courses. Eventually, he had his own successful hypnotherapy practice. When you start expanding your ideas about what’s possible, your confidence will also grow. And you can start expanding by experimenting.
If there are things you want to do, but you don’t feel capable of doing them, write each thing down on a piece of paper, along with the reason you think you can’t do it. Is it impossible because of something you lack? Do you not have enough empathy, courage, intelligence or physical strength? Whatever it is, write it down. Now you’re ready to start the experiment. Imagine you have one of the particular qualities you believe you lack, pick something off the list and do something related to that impossibility.
Perhaps you think you could never be an Olympic-level mountain biker. Well, how about you start by fixing up that bike sitting in your garage? The more small steps you take, the more confidence you’ll gain and the closer that dream will be. It’s time to move past the fears of rejection and criticism and to start enjoying the adventures that life can provide. Get out there and start living!
What I took from it.
Resilience is not an elusive quality that some people have and others lack. It’s a practice that you can build by refusing to give up, despite the rejection and criticism you encounter. We all have the capacity for resilience. And, by cultivating it, you can discover your true passion and pursue it, even when the odds seem to be stacked against you.
Keep track of your progress. If you’re a writer, keep track of the number of words you write a day. Decide for yourself how many quality words or pages you need to write per day in order to feel good about your efforts. It doesn’t matter what you do – what’s important is to track it. Remember, success comes one step at a time.