After nearly two decades of working as a medical assistant for oral surgeons, Kelly Hughes suddenly found herself unemployed when her company was reorganized. Disappointed, she wasn't sure what to do. Then her husband suggested she become a real-estate agent. She thought the idea was ludicrous mainly because she felt she wasn't good with numbers. However, she acted on the suggestion but without much initial success. She failed the Colorado real-estate exam six times, before finally passing.
Starting tentatively and cautiously, she sold one house and then another and finally sold 28 houses in her first year, earning $128,000. It was a dramatic change for Hughes because in all the years she worked as a medical assistant, she never earned more than $30,000 a year. By being forced into unemployment, "I found my hidden talent," she says. Today she is one of the top real-estate agents in the Denver area.
Hughes is a good example of someone with "emotional resilience," or ER. When facing defeat and discouragement, people like Hughes find ways of responding courageously and creatively. They may have been in the mind of C.H. Spurgeon, 19th century British author and preacher, when he wisely observed, "Many owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties." When defeats and setbacks come, some people skyrocket while others plummet. Here are ways of effectively dealing with defeat.
Saturate your mind with wisdom from great people.
Even the most influential people have experienced defeat; yet, they were able to overcome adversity and share their insights. Inspire yourself by reading their words of wisdom. Here are some examples that can place you on a hopeful and positive path:
- It was not the victories but the defeats of my life which have strengthened me. — Sidney Poyntz
- Adversity unlocks virtue; defeat is the threshold of victory. — Orison Swett Marden
- I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution. — Werner Von Braun
Don't just sit back and wait for your life to take a turn for the better. That's leaving everything to chance and fate. Instead, shape your future by taking whatever steps are necessary. It could mean turning to trusted friends for emotional support or consulting with a professional to gain a clearer sense of direction.
The need to be proactive is captured in this old African parable: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. The lesson from that parable is this: It doesn't matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle. When the sun comes up, you need to be running."
Find the positive.
Remind yourself there is always a positive element in every negative situation. Train your mind to find the positive and then capitalize on it. Author and radio personality Dennis Prager tells of the time when he was a graduate student at Columbia University and looking for an apartment in Manhattan. The only affordable one he found was a ground-floor apartment. He signed the lease. When he mentioned it to his friends, they said he'd made a huge mistake. They told him that ground-floor apartments were to be avoided because they are the most easily burglarized. "These reactions and the fact that the area in which I rented was a high-crime area could easily have made me unhappy over my choice," he said.
Instead of feeling discouraged, he chose to see the positives and developed a mental list of why a ground-floor apartment was the best choice. "Unlike almost everyone else in the apartment building, I would never have to wait for the elevator," he reasoned. "I had immediate access to the superintendent who lived in the next apartment, moving in and out was cheaper and faster and I never had to worry about climbing flights of stairs when the elevator broke." By looking at the positives, Prager says, "instead of regretting what I had done and worrying about it, I loved that apartment from the day I moved in. Moreover, it was never burglarized, and I became somewhat of a big brother to the superintendent's son."
Maintain a healthy perspective.
Remember that it's all in how you look at defeat. Some people go through fire and are purified; others go through fire and are burned. The difference between them lies in how they chose to react to it. When facing defeat, don't choose the victim role; rather, choose to be victorious.
Be gentle on yourself.
Don't become your own worst enemy and your harshest critic. If negative voices emerge, find ways to tone them down.
Vow to conquer fate.
When you've experienced a defeat, tell yourself, "I will move forward." When you've been dealt a harsh blow, tell yourself, "I will overcome." This can mean studying your distressing issue carefully to learn a lesson and find the way to emerge triumphant. "To be brave in misfortune is to be worthy of manhood. To be wise in misfortune is to conquer fate," observes author Agnes Repplier.
Remember that persistence pays off.
"With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable," wrote Sir Thomas Foxwell Buxton. It is persistence that empowered Harrison Ford to overcome many defeating experiences and emerge as one of the world's most famous actors. "I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up," he says. "Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn't give up, your would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you."
Victor Parachin is a contributor to Advisor Today.