How to Turn Negative Experiences Around and Thrive

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This column is an excerpt from Matt Mayberry’s book, Winning Plays, out now.

When we experience failure, tragedy, or hardship, I believe we all struggle with envisioning the absolute worst outcome. When I got injured in my very first game in the NFL, I was completely broken and defeated in that moment, but I made it even worse because I chose to feel sorry for myself and refused to take the initiative to improve anything.

In times of despair it’s imperative that we constantly remember to see ourselves beyond our current circumstances. Just like clouds in the sky can temporarily block the sun, the clouds in your life should only be passing through.

I struggled desperately to see my life beyond the football field. I wallowed in disappointment and self-pity over things I could not change at the time. It was my own doing. And it was eye-opening and life-changing when I finally realized this.

I’m sure you must feel this way at times. Do you feel that you struggle with the negative experiences in your life? Can you see yourself beyond them? Do you just want to give up and have part of you die like I did? Or wallow in self-pity? Do you feel ashamed? Angry?

The negative experience could be anything — small or big. Maybe you were fired from your job. Maybe you failed at achieving an important goal. Maybe you’re battling depression over losing a loved one. Maybe you were rejected by a company or a friend. Maybe something has happened in your personal life that’s been difficult for you to come to grips with. Whatever it is, take it from me: there is hope beyond your current state of mind. You just have to think beyond yourself.

If there is one thing that completely derails aspiring business owners, athletes or anyone for that matter, it is the inability to turn failure into a gift and thrive despite negative experiences. It takes a lot of work and practice, and I don’t think that it ever becomes an easy thing to do, but once you learn how to stop overanalyzing and beating yourself up over something that didn’t go as planned, the better off you will be. It’s important to put yourself in a position to grow from that negative experience instead of surrendering to it and remaining stagnant.

Here are two ways to help you come alive again after getting knocked down and turn negative experiences into positive ones.

1. Create your own opportunities.

Create your own opportunities instead of waiting for someone to hand them to you. If something happens where you feel broken, but you know there’s a dream out there waiting for you, then know this: you can create your own opportunities. It’s up to you. If you’re passionate about a goal or anything you want to do, create and design the opportunity in the best way you can.

For example, if you’re interested in a new career but aren’t sure what the culture looks like from a workplace environment, offer to work as a free intern so you can get some hands-on experience. The people who wait for the door of opportunity to swing wide open so they can waltz through will likely be waiting a lifetime. Sometimes you have to walk right up to that locked door and break it down.

2. Power through like a champion.

Champions experience rough times like everyone else. But you know what? They simply power through them. I hadn’t learned how to be a champion yet when I felt broken and desolate about losing my dream as a professional athlete. Since then I’ve learned that champions develop alternate winning plays that will put them on top. Absolutely nothing stops them.

They grow stronger through the challenges. If life is easy for you, then you’re not going to grow. It’s the difficulties that present the opportunities for growth. One of the biggest mistakes most people make when confronted with failure or a negative experience is they don’t look for the “positive” in the negative. There’s value in every experience no matter if it’s a positive or a negative one, and it’s up to you to analyze the situation and create an opportunity to turn that negativity into a gift.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

When Faced With Adversity, Focus on Solutions, Not More Problems

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All too often, the first thing we do when adversity appears is focus on the negatives and all of the problems in our lives. Failure and adversity are only present in our lives to help us, not hurt us. It’s extremely important to never lose sight of this truth.

To turn failure into a gift and grow through the tough times instead of just casually going through them, you must begin to start focusing on ways to actually resolve the situation. Many people let their minds wander toward the negative, which then prompts them to focus on more problems instead of searching for ways to resolve the situation and grow from it.

The individuals and companies that are able to get through tremendous setbacks and actually grow because of them are the ones who focus on solutions, not more problems. Look at Thomas Edison for a quick example. His persistence in continually searching for solutions after facing one failure after another is a prime example of the utter importance of focusing on ways to advance.

Failure is never a final end result unless you make it so. Edison used every experience to get one step closer to where he was trying to go all along. This is the same type of mindset that we need to apply to our own lives and businesses when failure and adversity strikes.

Taking the time to fully analyze your situation in solitude, while focusing on solutions instead of problems, can revitalize your mind and help you focus on where you are headed, how you feel, and more important, how you view failure from that moment on.

If you do what’s easy, your life will be hard. If you do what’s hard, your life will be easy.

This applies to basically everything that we do. What’s easy is to focus on the negative when tough times occur. What’s easy is to focus on the problems in our lives instead of directing every bit of our energy towards the solutions.

We have to remember that what we focus on expands. If we focus on problems, we will get more problems. If we focus on solutions, we will get more solutions.

The next time failure, adversity or a setback knocks you down, make a list of possible solutions for the problem at hand. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of every single thing, but right when a solution of some sort comes to mind, immediately write it down.

The essence of capturing solutions and then putting them to paper activates our brains. We start to think of more ways to overcome our current hardships and how we can grow from the situation at hand. Once we have a list of 20 to 30 solutions, the next objective is to decide which solution is best and getting to work on putting that solution into play.

If you think long and hard enough, regardless of how bad your situation may be, the solutions are there. This type of thinking can be a total game changer for you and your business.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

When Failure Strikes, Protect Yourself By Being Positive in These 3 Areas

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Being positive, especially in the face of a crisis, is no easy task. The moment something goes wrong, negativity of all sorts begins to take over our thoughts, which eventually goes on to affect many other areas of our lives if we aren’t intentional about increasing positive energy.

This is something that I have struggled with for quite some time. It really took a while for me to be positive, think positive and expect positive when everything seemed to be falling apart in my life.

We have a choice whether we direct our focus on the negative or positive, and whichever one we decide to focus on greatly determines where we are headed. A key point that we can never lose sight of is what we focus on expands. If we give in and decide to play the victim card, negativity will eat us up and provide us with virtually no choice to move forward.

The absolute worst thing that we can do to hinder our ability to perform at a high level and be successful is to be negative, or worse, be negative in the middle of adversity or failure.

Being positive extends how long people live on this earth. Being positive creates thriving relationships. Being positive can turn very dark times into incredible blessings.

Here are three areas where you should be more positive.

1. In your thinking

Being a former athlete, I know firsthand just how powerful the mind truly is. Everything we are and everything we are not is a direct correlation to the quality of our thoughts. You can’t be great without thinking that you are great. You must already be in your mind before you become that in reality.

The same goes for when adversity strikes. The quality of our thoughts matter, and not only do they matter but they will lead us to victory or continual defeat over and over again. Start today to increase your thought patterns. Constantly talk to yourself in a positive and uplifting way. Direct your attention towards the good in your life, not the bad. Do everything in your power to make sure your thoughts are building you up instead of tearing you down.

One of the main reasons why positive thinking has caught a bad rap over the years is because some people will tell you to just think positive and stop there. But that’s foolishness. However, when the positive thinking is paired with massive action, phenomenal things begin to happen. Don’t just think positive, be and act positive as well.

2. In your relationships

We all currently have or know of those certain individuals that completely strip us of any little bit of positive energy that we may have had left in the tank. These individuals must be shown the exit immediately.

When you look to increase the positive relationships in your life, it serves as a springboard to thinking positively. It benefits you in more ways than just one. Don’t wait any longer to get rid of the energy drainers that make it nearly impossible to envision a brighter future for yourself or a way to overcome this hardship that you are experiencing.

3. In your expectations

Failure brings out the negative that ultimately changes our expectations. It’s hard to expect anything good to come out of a situation when all you know is struggle. It’s hard to expect the best when you have been knocked to the ground so hard that you don’t even know how you are going to get back up.

For some, they even decide to give up and quit completely by taking their own life. That’s what the tough times of life can do. That’s what failure can do.

Nothing is ever that serious to make you give up on yourself. Your destiny is a whole lot bigger than what you are currently going through. I have seen time and time again what happens to the people that let their problems and the unfortunate twists and turns of life define them — it’s not a pretty sight.

Every bad situation, failure or adversity is only present in your life to help you, not hurt you. Remember that!

When you increase the positive thinking, relationships and expectations that you have for your life and your business when all seems lost, failure will not get the best of you. As a matter of fact, you will actually get the best of it as you have decided to grow through challenges, not just go through them.

It’s certainly not an easy task to be positive in bad times, but is there anything worthwhile that is easy?

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com