- Mental Health
Failing to Succeed
This article takes a comedic yet serious look at a serious problem. I hope my "treatment" of this topic will not only make you laugh, I hope it brings home all my points, positively and for good, with a smile or even a chuckle.
A Tongue-in-Cheek, Upside-Down Look at Failure that Will Make You Want to Laugh First, Then Succeed
Is it possible to talk yourself out of succeeding, and into failing? Is it possible to talk yourself into failing at everything? Is it possible that failing can and often is the road map you and I need to find success? I declare here and now that the answer to my questions is a loud and resounding “Yes.”
Still, once you encounter more than a few failures in life, it can be easy to adopt a "failure mindset." In fact, I believe there are two words in the English language that work like magic to ensure failure, and those two words are “I can’t.”
Once you tell yourself you can’t do something, your mind, body and spirit become prepared for the process of failure. In fact, if you are truly committed to failing, your mind will engage in all the negative thinking and negative self-talk needed to ensure failure at any cost. Your body will cooperate too by refusing to engage in any action or activity that might lead to a successful outcome. And, once the body checks out, the door is opened to even more negativity, and along with that will come a suitable shroud for your defeated spirit. Still, if you're truly bent on failing, don't you dare toss that shroud away. You'll need it to use as a wet blanket, see, to keep your spirit covered in darkness. Once that happens, your usually "up" spirit will kick in and do its part in keeping your mind down in the dumps, physically and mentally.
You see, the spirit is naturally unwilling to participate in self-destructive behavior (God made it, you see, of purely positive energy). So, in order to stay on a downward spiral, you will have to capture your unwilling spirit, and hold it prisoner. To intimidate your spirit into participating, you will have to work extra hard, through your emotions. Aha, emotions. Now, we're talking. Those emotions? Now, there's a fickle crew. And if you let them run wild? Well, any way the wind blows will be cool with them. Unchecked, they'll supply you, constantly, with the fuel you need for the kind of "full force" negative thinking and negative self-talk your mind needs to keep hearing in order to keep down that old "up minded" spirit. Never underestimate the power of emotions. Once you allow them to get downtrodden enough, they will inspire physical inactivity, and physical inactivity will help you maintain a constant supply of fatigue and self-pity, as well as boatloads of discouraging and self-defeating self-talk. When failure is what you allow your mind to remain focused on while also nursing negative emotions, you will sustain not just an inactive "couch potato" lifestyle, you will also be successful in keeping your spirit, by and large the biggest threat to failing, in a subdued or "beat-down" state.
Now I ask, what else but failure could come out of such a scenario? Someone who allows emotions to assist with failure at any cost, without challenge, could easily author a book titled “How to Succeed at Failing by Really, Really Trying!”
The Character of “Failure”
People who are committed to failing must learn to make sure there is absolutely no way to move forward toward success. That is Lesson One: To make sure every possible roadway to success is blocked, and that every form of intervention is considered only for the purpose of being negated or “X’ed” out.
And most importantly, the failure-focused must learn how to keep the negative self-talk flowing, because there can be no progress toward success as long as the negative inner dialogue keeps rolling along like "Old Man River." It's important to note, after all is said and done, that words are what influence behavior, and no words are more important than the words you speak to yourself. Based on what you say to you, your behavior will either lead you to act in ways leading to success or to failure. And when failure is the apparent goal, then the words you say to you must always be negative.
Keep a “Not Smart Enough, Not Good Enough” Journal
Just for the sake of example, let’s pretend for a moment that you are someone who is completely committed to failure, and that failure is all you will allow your mind to expect. Now, let’s take our little scenario a step further, to make sure that you have adequately talked yourself out of any possible chance of success at anything. But what is the best way to go about doing that? You’re going to need to start journaling your negativity!
That's right. Make a list of everything you want in life, and then, next to every item on your list write down all the reasons why you can't have any of these things, no matter what. To make sure you are completely onboard with the negativity, mark a big red “X” through your list of things you really want, as you say over and over to yourself how you are not smart enough to achieve any of your dreams, and that even if you were smart enough, you are not good enough to deserve them.
While you’re participating in this ridiculous exercise, if a positive thought tries to seep into your mind to ignite just a tiny glimmer of hope that you might be able to succeed at something if you just try, be sure to pounce, quickly, on that radical, rascally thought. If failure is the goal, there's no place in your mind for any old glimmers of hope.
In fact, if at any time your self-talk starts trying to “go positive,” tell yourself to “just say no” to it. Trust me, there will be times the old pesky, "up-minded" spirit will start begging you to lean toward thinking that maybe, just maybe there is a tiny tidbit, a small iota of a chance that you might deserve some mediocre level of success in at least one thing or another. But you must quickly shut down all such rubbish. Pull that shroud back over your spirit, immediately, and smother any hope it might be trying to inspire. Counter that sucker where it lives with some hefty one-two punches of even more negative self-talk. A good thing to tell yourself at times like this is that even if you did deserve a modicum of success, you have neither the time, the money, or the energy it would take to achieve whatever it is your spirit wants to convince your mind you can achieve. Now, that should put "l-e-s-s" at the end of every "h-o-p-e" your spirit tries to whisper to your mind.
Get the point? Good, but we’re not done yet. In the next sections, I'm taking the hyperbole up several more notches to show you how it's really done.
"Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me," (Cover) Music to Enhance the Success of Any Pity Party
Know When It's Time to Call in The Cavalry
Okay. You’ve got your mindset programmed for failure. You've revved up the depression factor by listening to an exceptionally well done cover of the old Hee Haw song, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me" (above). You have your negative self-talk going into overdrive, so you're cruising along well on the highway to failure. But what's that I see up ahead? Why, it's something else you'll need to look out for constantly. It's one of those scene-stealing, optimistic, positive-thinking people trying to flag you down, trying to thumb a ride. Now you have to know them needing a ride is just a pre-text. What they really want to do is to try to talk you down from the failure ledge! Now listen closely, you're going to need to ignore the speed limit here and just zoom right on past that pesky positive-thinking provoking poser, because you must never, under any circumstances, never underestimate the power of being around positive people!
Underscore this: You must steer clear of all positive-talking pity-party poopers at all costs! You might be able to keep success away for a while by keeping the fires of negativity lit on the inside, but one day you will discover that you must also keep a closed mind to every conceivable type of positive external stimuli as well. And that means you must learn to play "keep away" with positive people while turning, instead, to the ultimate cavalry for negative thinking.
Who represents the cavalry? Negative people! To make sure you are fully enveloped in negativity, you’re going to need to steer clear of positive-minded folk, and surround yourself, instead, with negative folk. Negative people are the Holy Grail for staying focused on failure, so you'll need to keep them nearby at all times, or on speed dial. These are the folk who will keep the negative self-talk streaming in for you, from the external world. That's right. If failure is your goal, you're going to need to stay away from positive people at any cost, because those rascally rascals will scare away all the gloomy Guses and negative Nellies you know, and all the ones you can find. But negative folk—your dependable cavalry, will become your back-up singers, your chorus for non-stop negative thinking. As you sing your woe-is-me song, they'll be there, at the ready, waiting eagerly to do all the bee bopping and doo-wopping you'll ever need. They'll echo and underscore each and every one of your downtrodden, depressed utterances, and they'll be there any time you need them!
Steer Clear of Famous and Positive-Minded Experts Too
Now is the time to stay away from all forms of positive thinking—even when it comes from the media. These days some talk shows are allowing people to be hosts that are absolutely bent on making a positive difference in the world, and for those with plans to always fail at everything, this is not a good thing.
Your list of people to avoid has to include these wack jobs. Who are they? You know them. The TV, radio, and even Internet experts, some even have prominent university degrees and alphabets behind their names. Others are every day people who talk incessantly about how they have helped thousands of people turn negative situations and circumstances into positive ones.
Say you're watching television one day and you happen to see someone like that Dr. Phil, someone known for teaching others how to harness and utilize the power of positive thinking. What should you do? Even if other people are in the room watching the show, you should grab the remote control and press the mute button, immediately. Don’t give him a chance to say one word that might spoil your chance for failure. After muting him, just pretend you had something to say to someone in the room. After smoothing things over, be sure to change the channel, quickly, to another program. Remember, there’s no possible way Dr. Phil or anyone of his ilk can help you if you do your part and just change the dat-gummed channel.
And don’t stop with simply changing the channel to get away from people like Dr. Phil and Steve Harvey. Don’t listen to any talk-show host or expert who tries to lay out evidence of their success in helping all kinds of people solve all kinds of problems by helping them stay positive. Plug your ears if you have to, but be sure you don’t listen to them. Listening to optimistic blowhards like these could only derail your plans for failure.
And run away—don’t walk—far from all those hucksters’ information. And that means their books and articles, even their infomercials and Internet sites. Believe them when they tell you how many people they’ve helped. There is a reason these folk are best-selling authors respected by millions of folks in search of positive reinforcement. And that reason can only serve as a detriment to your commitment to failure.
Remember: Not All Positive People are Famous
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by merely focusing on tuning out the words of famous positive people. Even more diabolical can be the words of people you are close to; positive friends and family members who will--eventually, attempt to encourage you with all kinds of uplifting talk.
Some might try to use famous quotations and historical facts about how failure can be turned into success. Oh, they’ll come at you with all they’ve got, with all their care, concern, and sincere sentiments leading the way. Their goal is to convince you that even if you fail at something, that even failure can be a “stepping stone to success.” Yep. Their minds are just that warped. You see, these are eternally optimistic people; folk who just don’t get it, and never will. They’ll only keep trying to encourage you, so you’ll have to put distance between you and them; psychologically, if not physically.
You can bet that one of the tried-and-true examples they’ll undoubtedly pull out to use on you is the story of Thomas Alva Edison. They’ll go on and on about how Edison failed more than a thousand times before he finally found a way to make the light bulb shine. After they finish trying to feed you that malarkey, ask them if they think you’re stupid enough to compare your sorry self to Thomas Edison. I'm pretty sure that will get them out of your face.
But don’t be surprised if the same jerk comes back at you with the one about how if you “fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” You don’t have to say a word, but you can finally smile inwardly when someone throws you that foul ball. Why the inward smile? Because unbeknownst to the jerk that's trying to encourage you, this quote by Benjamin Franklin is really your mantra. You have purposely failed to plan because you indeed do plan to fail—and your plan is working. Ha, ha. Who is the joke on now?
Procrastination and Indecision are Your Friend
Next, be sure to romance procrastination. In fact, court and smooch it like there is no tomorrow, as though it is the "be all" and the "end all" of your existence. Don’t even hesitate a moment to put things off. And please, don’t make any decisions, whatsoever, because decision-making reeks of positive thinking. Even the word “decision,” is positive sounding, and if you contemplate that word long enough, sooner or later you’re going to want to start making some. Wrong move. To fail, what you want is the opposite of making a decision, and that means putting off making decisions through hesitancy, fear and uncertainty.
Remember, you have to believe and act as though it is impossible for you to succeed, ever, in order to fail properly and completely at any and all things. And being indecisive is a primary trademark of failure. So stick to it! If others try to get involved in your indecisiveness, to try and reverse it, remember you have a “magic bullet” word that is guaranteed to stop those meddlers in their tracks.
The word has only two letters, but it packs a walloping punch. The word? It is simply “N-O.” N-O solves a multitude of problems. It stops people dead-on when they come to you thinking they have finally found something they can present to you that will entice you to leave your pity party.
When you pull out that magic bullet, look them directly in the eyes, and then let it fly straight at them, with a period at the end (instead of an emotionally unstable exclamation point). “No” with a period is the power ball. It’s the winning lottery ticket of negative statements because nothing, absolutely nothing says “that’s my final word” better than N-O. Period.
Go Big or Go Home . . .
The bottom line is, you have to believe in failure to make it work for you. You have to embrace it, tightly, or it cannot be your constant companion. To stay on the path of negativity, you have to have a strategy that can only lead to failure, with no chance for success. If you’re really committed to failing, you’re going to have to accept these truths. You're going to need to come to terms with the idea that the only lesson you need to remember from your past failures, is how it felt to fail, and not how it felt to try.
Never think of looking at your past attempts at achieving a desired goal as something you should be proud of. After all, what did it get you? A big fat failure, that's what! So what if you learned a thing or two about what not to do the next time you try? THERE ISN'T GOING TO BE A NEXT TIME, so what good did that do ya?! Remember, you didn't succeed when you tried, and that alone should be enough to convince you that you never will.
I think I've made my point. So, in conclusion, I'd like to leave you with this final thought. The most important thing you will need to keep in mind as you work to keep the negative thoughts and failures coming your way, is to remember that it is all about psychology. It is about mind over matter. Negative thoughts you allow to go unchallenged, and what you say to you, matters. At all times, it matters. Self-talk, ultimately, is the only difference between succeeding and failing at anything you truly want to do.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD