In the workplace and in our professional lives, we often agonize about mistakes. Whether large or small, we go over them again and again, trying to understand how we could have misunderstood the situation, the request, or the data, or how we could have been so stupid. We analyze each mistake vowing to learn from them, and promising ourselves not to make that same mistake twice.
We don’t look at our successes the same way, but perhaps we should. Are there factors that you can identify and use in future situations to make success more likely. Can you find a common thread that gives you an edge?
Think about what you consider several successful endeavors. Divide each into three parts—planning, implementation, and outcome. Next, find the commonalities and critical factors.
For example, look at your planning efforts. Were you well-prepared? Had you done the necessary homework? Had you gotten advice or data needed to make your argument or explain the benefits of your project? Had you carefully crafted your presentation or pitch? Did you practice what you were going to say? Did you ask a friend or colleague to review your proposal?
Then look at critical decision points. If you laid out the process in advance, did you stick to your script and go through the steps as prepared and practiced? Or, if necessary, were you able to be flexible and just hit the high points? Did you handle questions easily and gracefully with no indication of defensiveness? Were you inclusive and did you give recognition to others as deserved? Did you thank colleagues for their participation without any hint of gloating?
Finally, look at the outcome for each success. Was it exactly what you had been hoping or expecting, or was it only a partial success? If you were given the project go-ahead or the assignment, what came next? How did you go forward? Did you, or can you, build on that success?
If you compare several recent successes, you will be able to recognize an individual success pattern that you can use time and again? Analyze why and how it works and how you can enhance it for even greater success.
It may be useful and necessary to review your mistakes, but you may learn just as much, or more, by looking at your successes.