Embracing the sting of failure may not sound enjoyable — but new research shows it’s the best way to learn from mistakes.
A study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making found that people who ruminated on their emotions about failure were likely to try harder to correct their mistakes than those who made excuses or didn’t let their failures bring them down.
This notion of feeling the pain in order to progress may be counterintuitive to those who believe in shaking off failures. But it’s actually motivating to learn how bad it feels to fail, according to study co-author Selin Malkoc, a marketing professor at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
“All the advice tells you not to dwell on your mistakes, to not feel bad,” Malkoc said, according to a press release. “But we found the opposite. When faced with a failure, it is better to focus on one’s emotions — when people concentrate on how bad they feel and how they don’t want to experience these feelings again, they are more likely to try harder the next time.”
Malkoc and two other researchers created three slightly varied study scenarios with nearly 100 people each to determine whether thinking about emotions of failure would change the response to new challenges.
In one scenario, 98 people were asked to find the lowest price online for a blender with specific characteristics, and were told they’d get a prize if they succeeded. The participants were then divided into two groups. One group was told to imagine failing and focus on their emotional response, and the other group was told to simply think about the details of their failure if they did not win. Afterward, all participants were told that they had failed — the actual lowest price was $3.27 less than whatever they submitted. When both groups were given a similar task again, the group that thought about their emotional response spent nearly 25% more time searching for the lowest price, compared to the other group.
The researchers also found that trying harder in the next task after thinking about emotions only occurred if the task was similar to the original failed task — people didn’t carry over the motivation into other types of exercises.
Malkoc advised people not to rationalize or shy away from their emotions after they make mistakes if they want to improve in the future.
“Emotional responses to failure can hurt,” she said in the release. “But if you focus on how bad you feel, you’re going to work harder to find a solution and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”
I haven’t been feeling very grateful lately, but I don’t want that to stop me from trying. I needed some help with my journal, so I did a simple Google search “things to be grateful for”. From one of the results, I found a list of list of things to be grateful for, and here are a few of my favorites items from that list:
Communication: the ability we have to “talk it out”. Sometimes I find it impressive how much we can achieve when we decide to communicate with others, and also, with ourselves.
Kind strangers: realizing there’s good people who are willing to be good to us, even though they don’t know us, or will not gain anything from helping us, can be very powerful. I had the experience of finding kind strangers these past few days, and it makes a difference. I hope I can also be a kind stranger to others.
Laughter: one of my favorites. Remember, there’s always something to laugh about.
Maybe what I want to remember from this week, is that we don’t need to do everything by ourselves, we can always ask for help, from strangers, from Google, let’s communicate and make this a better place for everyone.
See you around,
I’m a lazy person. This surprises some people, especially considering that I write productivity books for a living. Take a day off, for example. Forget adventures — my preference for that free time is to lie on the couch, watch Netflix documentaries and read. And a week off? I’m the kind of person who prefers to stay home and eat pizza rather than travel the world. Luckily for me, this laziness is precisely what makes me so productive. And that’s a fact backed up by science.
Laziness is a lost art. I don’t mean laziness in the sense of filling each moment with mindless distraction. I mean proper idleness, when we choose to do nothing. In a world of constant distraction, we rarely put our mental feet up. Instead, we spend our spare time bouncing between novel distractions — going from checking our email, to reading the news, to surfing Facebook, and so on — activities that often make us even more tired.
In any given moment, our attention is either focused or unfocused. Focus gets all the attention — it’s what lets us get work done, have meaningful conversations and move our lives forward. But as it turns out, research shows that unfocusing is just as powerful, albeit in different ways. While focusing makes us more productive, unfocusing makes us more creative.
Think back to your last creative insight — chances are it didn’t happen when you were focusing on one thing. In fact, you probably weren’t focused on much at all. You may have been taking an extra-long shower, walking, visiting a museum, reading a book or relaxing on the beach with a drink or two. Maybe you were sipping your morning coffee. Then, like a flash of lightning, a brilliant idea struck.
There’s a reason why your brain chose this moment to connect these swirling ideas. When our attention is at rest — like during bouts of idleness or laziness — our mind wanders to fascinating places. One study, which periodically sampled people’s thoughts while their minds were wandering, confirmed this. The places our mind wanders to include the future (48% of the time), the present (28%) and the past (12% of the time). For the time that remains, our mind is typically dull or blank. The exact percentages don’t matter much — instead, it’s worth highlighting that this wandering isn’t as unproductive as we may think. An idle mind allows us to do three critical things:
- Rest. When our attention is at rest, we’re at rest. When we choose to let our mind wander — I call this state of deliberate mind wandering “scatterfocus” — we don’t have to regulate our attention. This makes the mode energy-restorative, which helps us focus more deeply later. To extend these energy benefits, it helps to do something pleasurable, effortless and habitual while you rest your attention, such as investing in a creative hobby, running without music or walking to get a coffee without your phone to distract you. Doing something habitual has also been shown to lead to more creative insights.
- Plan. Research shows we think about the future 14 times more often when our attention is scattered, compared to when we’re focused. We also think about our long-term goals seven times as frequently when our attention is at rest. Acting upon these goals is another matter, naturally, but strategic laziness allows us to set intentions and recall our goals in the first place.
- Unearth ideas. Our wandering mind connects all three mental destinations: the past, the present and the future. This allows us to experience significantly more creative insights than when in a focused state. For example, you may recall an idea you read a few weeks back and connect it with how to solve a current work situation. Our most counterintuitive, insightful ideas come when we’re unfocused.
The best productivity tactics are the ones that, for every minute we invest in them, we make that time back and then some — they allow us to accomplish that much more, and work that much more efficiently. I include laziness in this category. When we’re idle, it doesn’t look like we’re doing much. But mentally, the exact opposite is true.
Chances are you should be lazy more often. Whether it’s to give your brain a rest, dig up insightful ideas or plot future plans, sometimes the best way to make stuff happen is by doing nothing at all.
Positive emotions are good for our minds and bodies. Making sure we have daily helpings of positive emotions is just as important as getting those daily helpings of nutritious vegetables and fruits.
It’s easy to give ourselves experiences that boost our positive emotions. Positivity is fun to practice. It’s also a great way to learn more about ourselves and what makes us tick. This worksheet will help you notice, track, and explore 10 common positive emotions.
Below are 10 word groups that describe positive emotions. For each group, think of an activity or situation that helps you feel one of those emotions. Write it in the space provided.
Next, put a star next to one or two positive emotions that you want to practice this week. Commit to doing something that will increase that positive emotion every day for a week. We’ve provided some examples to get you started.
1. JOYFUL (happy, glad, lighthearted, pleased)
“When I see my friends and we laugh and have fun together, I feel happy. I’ll take time to laugh with my friends every day at lunchtime.”
“When I get home from school my dog is so glad to see me and I feel glad to see him, too. I will make time to play with my dog every day.”
2. GRATEFUL (thankful, appreciative)
“When I take time to notice all my mom does to take care of us, I really appreciate her. To feel more gratitude this week, I can list the things I love about mom and why I’m lucky she’s my mom. ”
“Saying grace before dinner reminds me of the blessings we have, especially for a good place to live and my family. I know some people aren’t as lucky as I am.”
3. PEACEFUL (relaxed, serene, at ease)
“When I listen to classical music, I feel peaceful. I will listen to it for 15 minutes every night before bed.”
“Stroking my cat and hearing her purr gives me such a feeling of being relaxed. I’m going to try that before bed each night this week and focus on how peaceful she is.”
4. INTERESTED (engaged, attentive)
“I feel totally interested when I am in my favorite class, science.”
“I get completely absorbed in my music. When I play, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’ll plan to practice each day after school, before I do my homework.”
5. HOPEFUL (wishful, expecting good things)
“Before a game, I feel hopeful that we’ll win. This week, I’ll concentrate on that feeling of hope and expecting good things before I play.”
“I love the idea of making a wish. This week when I’m at that pond in the mall, I’ll throw in a penny and make a wish.”
6. PROUD (beaming, satisfied, confident, accomplished)
“I feel this way when I put my best effort into something. This week, I’ll really focus on my homework and how I feel when I give it my best — even when it’s not my top subject.”
“When I cook something, I feel accomplished. This week, I’ll bake something for the whole family. I love how it feels when they compliment me!”
7. AMUSED (humorous, fun-loving, playful, silly)
“I am reading this book that makes me laugh out loud. Reading some of it every day is a way to get my daily dose of laughter and humor.”
“My dad and I tell each other corny jokes as a way to laugh together. We can start a ‘joke a day’ habit. We’ll get my kid stepbrother in on the act, too. He’s so goofy that sometimes just the way he tells a joke cracks us up.”
8. INSPIRED (creative, uplifted)
“I feel really inspired in art class. I can stop by the art studio at free period and work on something creative or I can make time to draw and doodle at home.
9. AMAZED (awed, part of something larger than ourselves)
“Looking at the sky is my favorite thing. The clouds, stars, planets, moon … I feel I am a part of this whole incredible universe.”
10. LOVING (loved, compassionate, caring, kind)
“Doing a kind thing for someone anonymously is a way I like to be caring. Every day this week, I’m going to find one person who looks like they could really use a boost and do something to help them.”
“I’ve started doing a loving kindness meditation. I’m going to practice it every morning when I wake up.”