Superbowl’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ discusses failure
It was interesting listening to Nick Foles talk about failure earlier this month. He is the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, who had just won American Football’s Superbowl. Foles had just been voted the game’s most valuable player. A huge achievement for a back-up; someone considered as only a reserve player. Someone who had considered quitting the game only a couple of years before.
Foles said: “In our society today, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things. And then when you look at it, you think, wow. When you have a rough day, or when your life’s not as good as that, you’re failing.”
He went on to highlight how failure is a part of life, that as humans, we make mistakes, and that’s part of learning. That’s Foles’ approach to increasing resilience.
40,000 years on Facebook every day to judge successes and failures
His words ring true for us because we do spend so much time looking at other people’s highlights reels. Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are, in conjunction with our smartphones, designed to grab our attention, to look at other people’s highlights reels, with the inevitable consequence that you will reflect and judge your own successes and failures. In 2014 the New York Times conducted a study and concluded that collectively humanity spends nearly 40,000 years on Facebook, every single day. That’s an awful lot of highlight reels, a lot of judging ourselves on a current life and how it matches up.
The truth is our bias on how we see the world also reflects back on us. We carry forward the memories we choose into later life and use them to form our identity – how we see ourselves in the world. Almost all of us forget huge parts of our experiences. Almost all of us. Very few people have what is called highly superior autobiographical memory or HSAM. People with this condition remember most days of their lives like we would remember the recent past. But, rather than being a gift – a path to success via quiz shows or casinos HSAM is seen as a curse. Scientists understand the condition as people who are bad forgetters because they recognise that the memories we forget are an important part of our mental development.
What do we choose to remember, and what do we choose to forget?
Often, when I am working with people experiencing a tough time, we talk about elongating the time frame – taking the picture of today and putting it into part of life’s tape – the whole story. This requires them to look backwards at similar experiences and draw insights from how they solved a problem or overcame an obstacle. Furthermore, they must look forward and see past the current challenge that is occupying their thoughts so much. As a result, I sometimes feel they have been looking at the wrong highlights reel, and in taking a moment to change it, they see new possibilities and a path forward emerges.
Ways to increase resilience: How can you change your highlights reel?
Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, identify the source of these feelings, and notice where your thoughts are being continually drawn to. Ask why this seems to be?
Examine your highlights reel – when have you faced a similar situation before? How did you get past it? What help did you need? And especially, what beliefs about yourself do you need to challenge?
See past the problem. What could the paths ahead look like? What are the possibilities? What could you be willing to do differently? Will they still enable you to work towards your goals?
Move forward. Some people may say failure comes only when we quit. This isn’t true. Knowing what to stop and having the courage to say no are critical parts of our growth. We grow up believing that growth is just about adding more. It’s not. It’s about accepting and doing things differently. And that involves letting go.
Let us know how you get on when you change your highlights reel. Does your resilience increase?
Sarah Sweetman and Harriet Heneghan, Directors at Black Isle, will discuss these subjects, and more, at our next breakfast event on Wednesday 21st March. There are just a few places left so click here to register yours.