From Failure to Success

What makes the difference between success and failure?

This unnamed model defines two strategies for coping with failure.  I am not particularly keen on the labels for types of coping strategy (emotionally & problem oriented) as emotional and cognitive processes are often intertwined (see the CBT process Model).  But the model itself is one of the best and most important models for anyone involved in personal development.

CBT Process Model






Strategy 1: Emotionally Oriented
People who adopt these strategies usually have an external locus of control.

* The goal of a person who uses an emotionally oriented strategy is to remove the feeling of failure as quickly as possible.  The feeling of being a failure is a bigger cause of concern that the level of performance which defines the failure.  Therefore they try to eradicate the feeling by blaming others and denying the failure.  Rationalisation is also another common way to explain the perceived failure.  The words “yeah but” are a classic sign of rationalisation.  This leaves them stuck in stage 1 of the conscious competence model.

* One way to rationalise is to deny that there has been a failure – thus it is impossible to learn, adapt and improve.  The chance to improve is lost and they continue making the same mistakes continually. Therefore confidence remains low and the cycle of failure continues.  Emotionally oriented people are unable to acknowledge that they are not performing to their maximum potential and are terrified of the word failure.  They adopt the “I am what I am” response and look to other similarly poorly performing role models to reinforce them.  These people under-perform constantly.

Strategy 2: Problem Oriented
Problem oriented strategies involve accepting, evaluating and tacking the problem or failure.  They typically involve metacognition and system 2 thinking.  A person who uses an emotionally oriented strategy usually has a strong internal locus of control and a high level of emotional intelligence.

* The goal is to identify the problem and improve so that failure is only a temporary setback.  In contrast to emotionally oriented people, a problem oriented person is more concerned with the actions which caused the failure than the label of failure itself.  They are aware that actions, not words are the ultimate display of success.  Consequently, instead of rationalising or denying the problem, they address the issue and try to improve.  The world’s top sports stars, scientists, politicians, business people, mothers, teachers etc are usually problem oriented and they have perfected working on their weaknesses.  While others deny their weaknesses and pretend they are perfect, problem oriented people are constantly improving, thinking, learning and becoming the peak performers we hear about.

* Problem oriented people usually address failure directly.  This can draw them in to conflict with emotionally oriented people who don’t want to admit the failure.

* Problem oriented strategies include tactics such as problem solving, planning, seeking information, evaluating, brainstorming.

So, when things go wrong, whether it’s fitness related or in any other area, try looking at factors you can control, instead of deflecting the blame via factors that you can’t. Don’t beat yourself up, just be logical instead of excessively emotional.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.