The Trap of Defeat

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” — Denis Waitley


A couple posts ago, I talked about the Trap of Prosperity. Essentially, it is a period of stagnancy that sometimes comes along with success, and very often can lead to a decline in sales if nothing is done about it. There is another trap that you need to watch out for that I will call the Trap of Failure. It is something that we have all experienced at some point in our lives, and if you aren’t careful, it can cause a downward spiral. Basically, what it is is that when we fail to meet our own expectations, we often get down on ourselves. Instead of finding ways to go back and try again, we dwell on the past and it becomes a self-fulfilling loop of disappointment. We are disappointed that we failed, and so we are too busy thinking about that to move forward and try something else, and because of that, we are disappointed that we can’t think of anything else to do. This loop causes us to lose our work ethic and can even lead to depression if nothing is done about it.

Now, you may be thinking, “what about learning from our mistakes? If we don’t think about what went wrong then how can we ensure that it won’t happen again?” My answer to you is that you are severely underestimating yourself and the power of your brain. The human brain is amazing in its ability to adapt to new situations, and one of the best methods it has of adapting is by learning through its mistakes. If we look at this from a survival standpoint, it is very important for us to avoid situations that have caused us harm in the past. Otherwise, we would keep falling for the same trap and, depending on the consequences, would be vulnerable to starvation or other predators. This is also related to our sense of fear. Fear is essentially a deeply ingrained instinctual knowledge of what we need to be aware of, and a lot of it is derived from experience. What I’m trying to say with all of this is that the human brain is intensely aware of the mistakes it makes, even when dealing with situations that do not cause us physical harm.

Our mind has adapted amazingly well to civilization. Whereas before civilization came about mental rewards were given for putting in work to find food or water, those same rewards (feelings of accomplishment) are now given to us when we create something incredible. We have successfully transmuted our will to survive in a physical sense into a will to survive socially and economically. Since survival is taken care of for most of us these days, our mind can focus on improving itself and accomplishing other things. But it is not perfect. Since social and economic success are not necessary for survival, it is possible to fall into a rut where the brain becomes stagnant and does not push us towards accomplishment. Sometimes all it takes is one failure to make us think that it is impossible to move forward. And so we over-analyze what went wrong, and think that until we figure that out, we cannot succeed. This is simply not the truth. Even without “figuring out” something, our brain has an amazing ability to “feel” its way through new situations, and in order to do this it draws upon past experiences, and of course, past mistakes. So by failing to accomplish something that is truly important to you, you have already provided your brain with the recipe for success, whether you know it or not.


The important thing to do is move forward. Once you start trying new things, your brain will go through all of its experiences in order to bring up ideas that it believes are the most effective. Trying to solve the unsolvable only sets you back further, and if you are able to move past your mistakes then I think you will be surprised at how quickly you can bounce back and start again on your new and improved path to success.



Bobbie Goheen