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If at first you don't succeed, you're in excellent company

What would you do if you thought, or someone told you, that something was impossible and that you would never achieve it? Would you try for it anyway? Or, what would you do if you failed at something, then you failed again, and again and again. Would you keep trying despite the setbacks?

The reality is that we don?t know what is possible and we don?t know what will happen if we try for the failed thing just one more time.  In fact the evidence suggests that the most successful people in life have believed the ?impossible? and pursued it despite the setbacks, often trying for the thing many times before they eventually succeeded.

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal called ?If at First You Don?t Succeed, Your in Excellent Company? gives examples of some of societies most successful people who have failed, and often many times, before reaching success.  For example, JK Rowling was rejected 12 times before publishers took on Harry Potter. If Rowling hadn?t persevered we would not have got to experience Hogwarts. The same is true of Walt Disney who was told he ?lacked imagination? and the British author G.K. Chesterton?s teacher said that if she were to look inside his head 'we should not find any brain but only a lump of white fat.'. There are hundreds of other examples too which you can find by clicking here

What seems to underlie this success is what psychologists call self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy is a belief that you can reach very specific goals in life.  Having high levels of self-efficacy is associated with many positive outcomes in life.  It helps people overcome setbacks and reach their goals (and exceed expectations, as in the case of Rowling).  Albert Bandura, the psychologists known for his lifetime work into self-efficacy, says that if success comes too easily, some people never master the ability to learn from the criticism.  Criticism can be a gift, so long as the person sees it as a learning opportunity or as information gathering, rather than as personal or demoralising.

The good news is that people, of any age, can learn to be more efficacious.  The article mentions several ways to increase self-efficacy: small success, learning from others, encouragement and constructive feedback.  At the Centre we like Carol Dweck?s approach to this which you can read about here.

In addition to these ways to build self-efficacy the other message from this article is that failures and setback are a normal part of human nature.  Even the most successful people have failed along the way.  As Thomas Edison said ?I failed my way to success? to read the article click here.

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