Keep the Right Perspective on Bad Experiences


When you have a bad experience, how do you respond? Your answer says more about your perspective than the experience itself!

When you have a bad experience, which of the following phrases is most likely to represent your thinking?

  • I never wanted to do that task to start with, so who cares?
  • I’m a failure and my life is over.
  • I want to give up and never try again.
  • I’m gaining experience from my mistakes; I wonder if I can get some help.
  • I now know three ways that won’t work, so I’ll try again.

Your answer says more about your perspective than it does about the bad experience. That’s why the responses to the same bad experience can be so varied.

Author and speaker Denis Waitley says, “Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.” Seeing difficulties as experience is a matter of perspective. It’s like the difference between going in the ocean as a small child and as an adult. When you’re little, the waves look massive, and you fear that they may overwhelm you. As an adult, the same size waves may be seen as a source of relaxation and fun.

When facing difficulties, maintaining perspective isn’t always easy, but it is worth fighting for. As you work to maintain the right point of view, try to keep these three things in mind.

Don’t Base Your Self-Worth on a Bad Experience

You are not your performance. And you don’t have to be defined by your worst moments. So don’t base your self-image on those things. Instead, try to understand and accept your value as a human being. If you fail, don’t ever tell yourself, “I am a failure.” Instead, keep things in perspective and say, “I may have missed that one, but I’m still okay. I can still be a winner!”

Don’t Feel Sorry for Yourself

One of the worst things you can do to lose perspective is to start feeling sorry for yourself. Okay, if you have a bad experience, you can feel sorry for yourself for twenty-four hours, but then after that, pick yourself up and get moving again. Because if you start to wallow, you just might get stuck.

Psychiatrist Frederic Flach in his book Resilience points out that survivors of bad experiences don’t let the negatives in their lives define them, and they don’t wallow in self-pity. They don’t believe their negative experience is the worst thing in the world. Instead, they think, What happened to me may have been bad, but other people are worse off. I’m not giving in.

If you find yourself in the aftermath of a bad experience, try to remember that if you’re still breathing, it could have been worse. Try to focus on the good you can make of the difficulty. Because of the experience you’ve gained, you may even be able to help others who have gone through similar difficulties.

Do Consider Your Failures as a Process to Learn and Improve

When we fail or have a bad experience, we need to learn to become more like scientists and inventors. When their work fails, they call it an experiment that didn’t work. Or they say they tested a hypothesis. Or they term it data collection. They keep their perspective, avoid taking it personally, learn from it, and leverage it for future success. What a great way to look at things.

Psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers asserted, “The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top.” Or to put it another way, as longtime baseball manager Casey Stengel did: “You gotta lose’m sometimes. When you do, lose’m right.”

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