Depression, Self-Esteem

In Praise of Failure

It has always fascinated me that the three most popular New Year’s resolutions involve improving physical health. They are, in no particular order: lose weight, exercise more and quit smoking tobacco. Statistically, nearly 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February 1st.  “Another failure”, we might say, “just one of many times I’ve failed.”

However, “failure”, in and of itself is not necessarily a disaster, but rather could be a valuable learning opportunity.  Many years ago I enrolled in a computer programming course at a local community college.  Computers were a relatively new invention and the career opportunities seemed unlimited.  My college roommate, Larry, was a computer programmer and he seemed to enjoy his work. It seemed challenging, exciting and rewarding. Besides, I reasoned that I was at least as smart as Larry and if he could learn programming, then I could learn programming too!

After twelve short weeks of computer classes, I discovered that I was indeed as smart as Larry, but not in the ways of programming logic and linear thought patterns.  I failed the class terribly and my career in computing was effectively over.   After some reflection and soul searching, I realized that I had failed the class, but that I personally was not a failure.  In those twelve weeks I learned something very valuable about myself. I learned where my gifts and talents were not.  This probably spared me from a career of unnecessary struggle and unhappiness.  Success usually feels good and if we are attentive it can teach us a little about ourselves.  Failure feels terrible, but it also provides the opportunity to learn a lot.  Failure says “Okay, so Plan A didn’t work out well, but this is not the end of the world. What might Plan B or Plan C look like?”

We are all going to experience failures.  It’s hard to believe, but those failures are often a gift.  Failure shows us what doesn’t work, so that we can begin to focus on what does.


New approach to cause of depression may help treatment using established therapies

It’s often assumed that it’s depression that causes a pessimistic view of the future. But it could be the other way around, a new study finds. Being pessimistic about the future may actually cause depression.

Professor Martin Seligman and Ann Marie Roepke reviewed the research on prospection. Prospection refers to how we think about the future. Their conclusions are published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (Roepke & Seligman, 2015).

They find that there are three ways in which thinking about the future may cause depression:

Poor generation of possible futures.
Poor evaluation of possible future.
Negative beliefs about the future.
Depression also likely feeds back into more negative views of the future, creating a vicious circle.

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