Let’s face it, many of us fail at failing. We talk a good game about the importance of failure as an opportunity for learning and growth yet we are afraid of taking big risks. We become so burned by failure and the possibility of facing another failure that we become almost paralyzed at the thought of taking a risk. Positive psychology calls this “learned helplessness.”
If we are to understand our response to failure, and how to change that response, it is worth taking a look at the field of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the skills and attributes that can create good in the face of negative situations and/or environments. Positive psychology complements traditional psychology, which focuses on problems and how to remedy them, with an understanding of strengths and resilience. Over the course of several decades of study, psychologists have found that one of the key attributes of subjects who do not learn helplessness is optimism and that this is a skill that can be learned.
We can all point to some instance in our work where we and our organizations have failed and that we survived is proof that we possess a measure of resilience. Optimism is built into what we and our organizations do as we are in the business of creating good. Let’s work on becoming more resilient by taking the time to examine what went right, instead of what went wrong, and do more right instead of giving up before we’ve even started.