If at First You Don’t Succeed: Lessons Learned from “Other” Results

By Denise King Gillingham, LMSW, ACC, CPM

So, it didn’t work out the way you expected. What do you do now?

Take a minute to think about the last time you tried something and did not get the result you wanted or anticipated. Maybe you were speaking to a teen­ager or grandchild who misinter­preted what you were saying. When you said, “Why don’t you try…,” she heard, “Your way is wrong.” She may have thought you were putting her down when you intend­ed to help her see something from a different perspective or understand an unintended consequence of an action.

Before you say, “I failed,” see what else happened. This misun­derstanding may actually have pro­vided an opportunity for you to better understand one another. You also may have gained insight into how you come across to others.

Although you did not get the re­sult you expected, there was never­theless learning and growth.

Try these six ideas for coping with unintended consequences.

  1. Shift your perspective.

Something did not go as expected: you didn’t get your dream job; your words were totally misinterpreted in a conversation; the addition of a color changed the feeling of the whole painting you were working on—you name it. Instead of beating yourself up, try viewing the situa­tion through a different lens. Look at the situation close up, noticing every detail, then think about look­ing at the same thing from 30,000 feet. How is what you see different, depending on your point of view? What is possible when looking at something from a micro perspective is different from what is possible when you look at the same thing as a panorama. Which lens works for you today?

  1. Get an objective point of view.

When we get too close to a situa­tion, often it is not possible to look at it as it really is. It can be helpful to speak with someone not involved in the situation to get a different point of view. For example, a trust­ed colleague might be able to offer a thought about what might help you get the job or promotion next time. Who will you ask?

  1. Look for secondary gains.

Did you “accidently” learn or dis­cover anything? Sometimes in a quest to succeed at something, there are accidental discoveries. Did you know that X-rays, radio­activity, pacemakers, microwaves, and penicillin were all discovered by accident? Remember that a new way of seeing something is also an important discovery! Think of a sit­uation in your life and try to look at it from another perspective. What is different?

  1. Be kind to yourself.

Dealing with a dashed hope can be challenging. Allow yourself some time to bounce back. During this time be gentle and nurturing with yourself. Remember that just be­cause you didn’t achieve your goal this time, you can try again and hopefully grow through the process.

  1. Network

Speak with others in your situation. See how they are coping. Some­times support from others in simi­lar situations can offer comfort and healing—and a new perspective.

  1. Explore your saboteur.

Is there something that is keeping you from achieving your desired outcome? Perhaps an outdated way of thinking or a lack of confidence is getting in your way. We all have little voices that stop us. Sometimes they are trying to keep us safe, and sometimes they are unconscious beliefs that are preventing us from growing. Is there something stop­ping you?

Ask yourself, What is possible when I modify an expectation with a shift in perspective? You just might find that the answer is limited only by your thoughts.

Denise King Gillingham, LMSW, ACC, CPM, is a certi­fied coach and mediator. Denise creates and de­livers programs for corporations and organizations throughout the United States and Europe on so­cial and emotional intelligence and nonviolent communication. Her coaching clients span all corners of the globe and all walks of life, from the international business executive to the stay-at-home par­ent. She received her MSW degree from Columbia University and has worked as a family therapist at The Paine Whitney Clinic in New York. She earned an advanced cer­tification in systems and relation­ship coaching and is CTI certified. She has also been a substance abuse therapist at the Bronx VA Medical Center in New York and had a private therapy practice in Prague, Czech Republic. Prior to receiving her MSW, Denise held various leadership roles in the fi­nancial services industry. Contact Denise at dkgcoaching.com.