On Attributing Failure to External Factors

Failure can offer valuable feedback that will help you achieve your goal. Unfortunately, many people lose the learning opportunity by attributing the failure to an external factor, such as luck.

As a result, they enter a downward spiral: each failure makes them less motivated to try again, and soon they give up, frustrated at how unfair the world is. It wasn’t really the world that was responsible; it was their own failure to take responsibility for their failure and learn from it.

Consequently, instead of identifying the root cause in something they did, they wrongly assume that they had no control over the situation. This not only makes them less likely to exert equal effort during subsequent attempts (which in itself reduces their chances of success), but also increases the risk they’ll repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Make sure that whenever you fail, you always look for the cause of the failure in something that you did, and not in something that you couldn’t control

Even when it looks as if something was indeed outside of your control, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t make any mistakes that might have increased the chances of such an outcome. Identifying those mistakes — even if they were only partially responsible for the failure — will help you in future attempts and prevent you from developing the unhelpful mindset that you don’t have direct influence over your life.

For example, if you weren’t hired by your dream company, perhaps it wasn’t your fault. Maybe there was a better candidate, the hiring manager didn’t like you, or the company later decided against hiring a new employee.

However, even in such a case, it’s valuable to ponder whether there was anything you could have done better. Perhaps you could have improved your resume, asked better questions during the interview, or been better prepared for
the questions you had assumed were unlikely to be asked.

Maybe it still wouldn’t have resulted in success, but at least that way you will have learned something new that will increase your chances of getting hired the next time, and consequently, you get to lift your spirits and boost your determination.

365 Days With Self Discipline – Meadows, Martin

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On Cultivating Positivity When Things Go when Things Go Bad

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.—Grenville Kleiser

Treating everything seriously is a sure-fire recipe for frustration and depression, particularly when you repeatedly get hit with one obstacle after another with no chance to catch your breath. Negative thoughts can sprout in even the most positive minds, but it’s your choice whether you nurture them or pull them out.

When I was struggling to grow one of my businesses, my laptop broke down. I not only had to buy a new computer to be able to continue working, but also pay a steep fee to have my data recovered (I’ve since learned how important regular data backup is!).

To make matters worse, all of that happened while I was deep in debt. I tried to keep my spirits high, but make no mistake — it was one of the darkest, most hopeless periods of my life. Still, if it weren’t for at least trying to be positive about the future, I’m sure I would have had a challenging time sticking to the business that had landed me in so much trouble.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You will face seemingly hopeless situations and your self-discipline will be tested on numerous occasions. How will you maintain good spirits despite the negative circumstances? What are your most effective techniques to make yourself feel better?

I strongly suggest creating a list of simple ways you can improve your mood that you’ll be able to turn to when you find yourself in a distressing situation.

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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On the Value of the Struggle

To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals — this alone is worth the struggle. —William Osler

We fantasize about the day we receive a trophy, cash out, step on the scales and see the perfect weight, travel to this beautiful place, step into this new spacious house, or marry that beautiful girl or guy.

The focus is on the success, not the struggle. And it’s understandable — success is glamorous, memorable, and marketable, while the struggle is drab, disagreeable, and unattractive for the general public.

Yet, it’s making the effort, struggling, and sticking to your resolutions that shapes you as a person. Success is a reward for having given it your best, but it’s not always within your control whether and when you get to enjoy it.

Whenever you find yourself discouraged by your lack of success, remind yourself that the process alone is your reward. It’s in your hands whether you allow yourself to see the rewards the struggle generates or ignore them, mindlessly pursing the end result as the sole indicator of success.

I failed numerous times in business. I could have despaired that I had lost so much time and money, but I hadn’t really failed. I had been true to my values of pursuing the entrepreneurial life. I kept going, despite the obstacles I constantly encountered along the way. Over and over again, I beat entrepreneurial depression and found it in myself yet again to get back up and try again.

Eventually my efforts paid off, but even if it had taken longer to get the results — or if I had died before reaching them — the struggle would still have been worth it for the immense changes I underwent on the journey to pursue my dreams.

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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On Borrowing Money

Every time you borrow money, you’re robbing your future self.—Nathan W. Morris

Borrowing money for consumption is a widespread disease in today’s world, fueled by excess and materialism. Unlike taking on a business loan to achieve a return on investment that is higher than the interest rate — a practice that, when done wisely, can enrich your future self — consumer loans only serve to satisfy the desire for instant gratification, while robbing (sometimes spectacularly) your future self.

Each time you’re thinking about getting a loan to satisfy a desire to own an item that belongs in the “want” category, imagine that you have the power to stop your past self from getting all the consumer loans you have today (if you don’t have any, pretend that you do). Just like that, you can erase all of them and finally gain peace of mind. Would you still go into debt to finance your toys?

Five years from now, you’ll look back at your past self, puzzled at how short-sighted you were to gift yourself with such a bad future for the fleeting gratification of getting a new car or TV.

“But I can get such great terms, it’s almost a free loan!” you’re saying? The terms don’t matter; the habit of prioritizing your present self over your future self eventually affects not only your finances, but every other area of your life.

Developing discipline to do without unnecessary feel-good purchases you can’t afford is one of the most important things you can do to gain more self- control and ensure that your future is better than the present.

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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On Quitting in a Smart Way

Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous and expensive. The best quitters are the ones who decide in advance when they’re going to quit. You can always quit later — so wait until you’re done panicking to decide. —Seth Godin

They say that quitters never win, and winners never quit. However, quitting is sometimes more beneficial than stubbornly sticking to something that’s not working for you. The key is to quit in a smart way — as the result of a process of logical thinking, not on a whim in the heat of the moment.

For example, after a couple of years of sticking to a bodybuilding routine I’d grown tired of it. I was often so annoyed during the workout that I wanted to stop it and go home. However, doing so would have allowed my temporary state of mind to make the decision — and that could have negatively affected my resolve in similar situations in the future where, having once allowed myself to quit on a whim, I would consider it a sensible thing to do again.

I took my time and carefully considered the implications of giving up bodybuilding before I finally parted ways with it. This way, I quit strategically instead of impulsively .

If you’re currently discouraged with a certain goal of yours, make a decision that you won’t quit until you can make a logical, educated decision that will take into account all of the repercussions of doing so. After carefully considering your options and their logical consequences, if you still want to quit, you’re probably making the right choice.

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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On Taking a Step Forward

If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.—Nora Roberts

When I was battling against my shyness, I set a goal to approach attractive women in the street. I knew that if I did it several dozen times, I would most likely overcome my social fears and transform into a new person.

What helped me act (in spite of immense anxiety) was the realization that talking myself out of approaching a woman would certainly equate to a “no.” Approaching her and getting rejected couldn’t worsen my situation. In fact, I could only gain, because even a rejection was still a valuable lesson I wouldn’t learn if I chose inaction.

Likewise, many people hesitate to start working on their goals out of a fear of failure or self-doubt. They fail to realize that if they don’t a take a step forward, they’ll be in the same place. Even if they take an unsuccessful step forward and need to backtrack, they’d still gain some experience. There’s nothing to lose, and potentially a lot to gain.

Are there any goals you’d like to pursue, but are afraid that you’ll embarrass yourself or fail? Have you ever considered that not acting on them leads to sure-fire failure, while an attempt gives you at least a small chance of success and a 100% chance of learning something new?

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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On the Value of Difficulty

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.—Thomas Paine

Easy successes may be pleasant, but if they’re the only successes you achieve, you’ll come to expect quick, effortless results. Then, when life hits you hard with a difficult challenge, you’ll lack the mental toughness to overcome it.

Moreover, you’ll never appreciate the easy successes as much as the ones that required blood, sweat, and tears.

Does it mean that you should reject easy successes and seek the most difficult ways to accomplish your goals? Of course not.

However, you should make sure that you don’t deliberately avoid hardships. Resist the temptation to set your aims low. Scoring exclusively easy wins might feel good, but you’re limiting your potential that way.

Over the long term, make sure that you always have at least one big, ambitious and demanding goal in life, as that’s where the power of self- discipline shines, where most personal growth happens, and which delivers the greatest feeling of having accomplished something worth doing.

365 Days With Self-Discipline – Martin Meadows

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