Hi Everyone,

I’ve been doing a lot of one of the things I love best recently: coaching. And some of those coaching conversations have reminded me of the interesting reality that many of us are wired to most easily recall when things have gone wrong, rather than when they have gone right.

Now remembering what has gone wrong has its uses of course. It helps to keep us away from future dangers, prepare better for next time, create a different strategy and so on, but sometimes we might want to choose to switch that way of recollecting off and do it differently.

When I am working with those in business, (or just having a conversation with my teenagers (and myself)) about things they are anxious about, they often recall previous occasions where things have gone wrong, but none that went well, with phrases like: ‘it’s always been a disaster’, ‘I’ve never got it right’, ‘I totally blew it’. That is the story they have written for themselves and are taking in to the next event, so of course they are anxious!  And the chances are, with that script running, they will fulfil the prophecy and this will be another occasion they can put into their ‘it’s a disaster’ bag!

When I challenge someone’s language (‘you’ve really never got it right?’) then of course they can start to recall occasions when it wasn’t a complete disaster, and if I ask them to calibrate their disasters on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is that there was nothing good about it, no one has ever, in over 20 years of asking that question, scored themselves a 1. Because there is always good stuff in there, being drowned out by the noise of negative recollection. It just takes a moment to realise it.

Whilst not always easy to do, it’s a simple switch to move our thinking from what went wrong to what went right. And if we do that then we can walk in to our next experience running a different script, full of memories of the things that have worked well in the past, and so we are much more likely to have it go well this time. And now we are not being overwhelmed by the stuff that didn’t work before we can fix it so that this time it goes better.

One of the things that helps us do this is something called Anchoring: we gather up memories of the times things have gone well, when we were proud of ourselves and pleased with what we achieved, and we anchor those memories to something we always have with us (a ring, a smile, a click of our fingers). Then when we trigger our anchor all those great memories return and support us. It’s using our natural recall wiring but reversing the content. And it is really powerful.

So there’s the challenge for us all. To spend time each day remembering what has gone well and to store those memories away so that we have them with us when we need them.

When we are able to recall what we are good at whenever we want to it helps our self-belief to be resilient in times of difficulty. But our real strength comes when we can be confident in who we are, not just in what we do. When something doesn’t go well that doesn’t mean that we are useless. It just means that one thing that we did wasn’t so good. As Churchill (photo from Wikipedia) puts it:

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm!

Thank you for reading this blog. I enjoy sharing ideas from the Choose You Project with you. Do keep getting back to me with your thoughts and comments as it is great to get them, either at jenny@insight-out.co.uk or in the comments box below.

Will be back with more Choose You reflections after Easter,