S is for Choosing To Succeed Rather Than Sulk

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Everybody experiences setbacks in life. They may then need time to reflect and gather their strength. At a certain point, however, they will need to make a decision.

Looking to the future, they can choose to succeed or sulk. If they choose the first route, they can set specific goals and work to achieve their picture of success. If they choose the second route, they may fall into a negative spiral.

Al Siebert studied survivors of crimes, tragedies and other traumatic events. He found that such people often took the following route.

They chose to take full responsibility for shaping their futures.

They clarified the potential ways forward – including many creative options – and the consequences of each route.

They committed themselves fully to their chosen route and worked to achieve their picture of success.

Al devoted much of his life to studying such people. His books include The Survivor Personality and The Resiliency Advantage. You can discover more via the following link.


The Resiliency Advantage

Looking back at your own life, can you recall a situation when you chose to work to succeed rather than sulk? You may have experienced a setback, suffered a loss, faced a difficult challenge or whatever.

Looking at the situation you faced, what did you do to reflect and gather your strength? What did you see as your options for going forwards? What were the pluses and minuses of each option?

How did you make the decision to do your best? How did you translate this decision into action? What happened as a result of taking those steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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There are many models for understanding the process that people go through after experiencing a setback.

They may go through the classic stages of shock, denial, paralysis, anger and hurt. They may then move on to healing, getting new strength, setting new goals, working hard, getting success and achieving self-confidence.

They may learn from their positive history. Looking back, when did they overcome a similar challenge successfully? What did they do right then? How can they follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – to tackle the present challenge successfully?

They may develop their Way Power as well as their Will Power. Rick Snyder highlights this approach in his book The Psychology of Hope.

A person may have a strong will, for example, but not see how to solve a challenge. This can affect even the most optimistic people. Once a person find a way forwards, however, their sense of hope returns. They can then use their Will Power and Way Power to reach their goal.

Different people may use different approaches for dealing with difficulties. Whichever approach they use, however, it often comes down to them choosing to shape their future. Here is the story of one person who chose to take a positive route.

Sue Carter came to the therapeutic community I ran in 1970. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of two and had been abused in institutions.

Arriving at the community, Sue recognised she was at a crossroads and began pursuing her chosen route. Putting her troubles behind her, she aimed to do one thing in life – to be a good parent.

Thirty years later, quite out of the blue, she emailed me to describe her journey over the past three decades. Now a proud grandparent, she had enjoyed a fulfilling life.

Sue was always feisty. This was exemplified during a visit from the Essex police who were investigating events at the children’s homes. They asked if she was a victim of abuse. Sue exclaimed:

No I am a SURVIVOR of abuse. 

Sue describes below the route she chose to follow before coming to our community and then afterwards. She wrote:

One day I found myself in a cell that was famous for holding a girl who had killed a child.

Things looked bad, but then I got the chance to go to a community where young people had the opportunity to change their lives.

Over 30 years later I now have three sons and a wonderful granddaughter, who is the apple of my eye. The times in-between have sometimes been difficult, but never dull.

During my twenties I had several long relationships and eventually got married. Unfortunately my husband tried to control me, so end of marriage.

My greatest fear as a parent was that my kids could end up in care. So I then decided to be the best single parent I could be. I stayed on my own with the boys for the next 18 years.

Then I met a good man with whom I had a child. Even though the man and I have now parted, we are still good friends and he is a good father.

Looking back at the therapeutic community, sometimes we had fantastic talks.

There would be 8 of us sitting in a bedroom till midnight, just sharing thoughts we had never discussed with anybody before. Every young person in the community had suffered problems.

We encouraged each other to talk about the past, but didn’t allow each other to use it as an excuse for behaving badly.

If I said, ‘My mother left me in the park when I was two,’ somebody else said: ‘I can top that. How can you use that bad experience to help others in the future?’ 

Nowadays I try to help other people by volunteering to work at the local hospice. But the thing I am most proud of is being a good parent to my children.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may choose to succeed rather than sulk? You may be managing a transition, dealing with an illness, making a change in your lifestyle or whatever.

Imagine that you choose to do your best in the situation. How can you take the time to reflect? How can you clarify the real results you want to achieve? How can you clarify the potential ways forward and the consequences of each option?

How can decide on your chosen route? How can you build on the pluses and manage the potential minuses? How can you translate your decision into action? How can you then do your best to achieve your picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how can you decide to do your best to succeed and translate this decision into action.

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