Whether you are trying to achieve your quarterly budget or win the Stanley Cup, there is no doubt we are out there to produce results. Why work so hard if it is not to get rewarded with the thing you have been striving so hard to achieve?
I have been a competitive athlete most of my life, and I have also been running my own business now for 10 years, and I can tell you I love the thrill of the big win! I am also encouraged by the little victories along the way, whether that is achieving a new PB in climbing my local hill on the road bike, or winning a small piece of work in my consulting practice. So yes… to me… results matter.
HOWEVER… what I have learned in the pursuit of excellence is that it works better if results do not take up too much of your focus and energy either before they occur or after they have passed. Working as a performance psychology adviser in business and professional sport, I have seen that time and time again people actually get distracted by focusing too much on results, which can take them further away, rather than closer to the their biggest goals.
Roll with Results and Stay in Action
When you are trying to achieve big things in life, it is likely that, like me, you will be encouraged by the small positive results along the way, but the risk to get thrown off course increases when you get discouraged by the negative results or get complacent because of positive results along the way to achieving the long term objectives.
The problem with results is that although they may motivate us, they do not instruct us on how to achieve the objective. In sport psychology, focusing on the ‘process rather than the results’ is a mantra most teams and coaches have adopted without question for many years now. But how often do you hear that mantra, or try to practice it yourself, only to see your team crumble under the pressure of a result going against them?
Trying to Avoid Failure Doesn’t Work
Human beings naturally tense up when they think about failure, and in trying to avoid it at all costs, can lose focus on the ever-important process that is most likely to deliver the desired result. The trick is not to avoid failure, but to embrace it… go to it with open arms… as long as you are doing everything you can to succeed!
I presented a keynote presentation to the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada last Thursday, and at the end, one of the delegates engaged me in a conversation about how it is hard to take the focus off results, and put it on the process, (and even harder to accept some short term failure along the way) when the nature of business is to produce results, and there is the ever-present pressure of the shareholders demanding results, quarterly, monthly and even weekly!
Fail Going 100%
I had shared a concept with the ACEC group – one that I call “fail going 100%” – which is this thing that is all about being prepared to accept failure, as long as you have done EVERYTHING you could to succeed. The conversation was around this concept of accepting failure – a question that arose was ‘How do you accept failure when everyone around you is demanding success at all costs?’ (I believe this is where true mental toughness comes in because there is often little that is more challenging than maintaining a position in the face of intense scrutiny to change, to back down and to bend to the will of powerful others). I believe the answer to the question is to be a thought leader around the concept of accepting failure – take a stand for what you know and believe in – have conviction in your process and deliver it with 100% integrity. The key word here is ‘conviction.’ If you know your process is world class and is highly likely to return a result over time, stick to it, be prepared to let your ego take a battering… work hard to educate those around you about what is really needed to create sustained success… and enjoy the last word when those who bailed early on your initiative see you outpace your rivals as time goes on. Is this easy to do? No. It is not. That is why we are talking about mental toughness and the practice of excellence. You have to be prepared to put success ahead of ego and pressure from others. Too many don’t, and then wonder why they only had short term success. Integrity – the action you take to deliver on your commitments – is everything.
Thus, ‘Fail going 100%’ is more about mindset than behavior. If you have truly gone 100%, with all of your knowledge, intellect, competency, and resources available to achieve a goal – and there is not more you could have done… then…simply… there IS not more that you could have done… and the result will be what it will be. You have done your bit to control what you could. In almost every situation in life, you only get to control what you do, and you almost never have total control of a result – frequently, the percentage of variance in any result is significantly beyond your control. The reality of results and your small percentage of control over the variability in them means that the only thing you can control once they have occurred is your perspective on, and response to them. AND if you are aware of these facts, in advance, you can also see that the only thing you can control in anticipation of a result before it occurs is the actions you take to increase the likelihood of the desired outcome.
Basically, failure to produce the desired result 100% of the time is inevitable in life because you don’t control all the variables that create the result; however, failure to have integrity around your actions is not inevitable – it is something you can choose. Your challenge is not to get distracted and out of integrity in the short term because you are too caught up in results, either because you are trying to avoid failure or are expecting success based on past performance.
The thing that matters most is ACTION. Find a way to stay in action and results will take care of themselves in the long run.
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result ~ Mahatma Ghandi
All the best,
Dr Sean R