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How to Turn Negative Experiences Around and Thrive

Staying strong when things are bad is a powerful way to ignite your personal growth.
How to Turn Negative Experiences Around and Thrive
Image credit: Tetra Images-Erik Isakson | Getty Images

This column is an excerpt from Matt Mayberry's book, Winning Plays, out now.

When we experience failure, tragedy, or hardship, I believe we all struggle with envisioning the absolute worst outcome. When I got injured in my very first game in the NFL, I was completely broken and defeated in that moment, but I made it even worse because I chose to feel sorry for myself and refused to take the initiative to improve anything.

In times of despair it's imperative that we constantly remember to see ourselves beyond our current circumstances. Just like clouds in the sky can temporarily block the sun, the clouds in your life should only be passing through.

I struggled desperately to see my life beyond the football field. I wallowed in disappointment and self-pity over things I could not change at the time. It was my own doing. And it was eye-opening and life-changing when I finally realized this.

I'm sure you must feel this way at times. Do you feel that you struggle with the negative experiences in your life? Can you see yourself beyond them? Do you just want to give up and have part of you die like I did? Or wallow in self-pity? Do you feel ashamed? Angry?

Related: Failure Is Not the End. It's an Opportunity to Learn

The negative experience could be anything -- small or big. Maybe you were fired from your job. Maybe you failed at achieving an important goal. Maybe you're battling depression over losing a loved one. Maybe you were rejected by a company or a friend. Maybe something has happened in your personal life that's been difficult for you to come to grips with. Whatever it is, take it from me: there is hope beyond your current state of mind. You just have to think beyond yourself.

If there is one thing that completely derails aspiring business owners, athletes or anyone for that matter, it is the inability to turn failure into a gift and thrive despite negative experiences. It takes a lot of work and practice, and I don't think that it ever becomes an easy thing to do, but once you learn how to stop overanalyzing and beating yourself up over something that didn't go as planned, the better off you will be. It's important to put yourself in a position to grow from that negative experience instead of surrendering to it and remaining stagnant.

Here are two ways to help you come alive again after getting knocked down and turn negative experiences into positive ones.

1. Create your own opportunities.

Create your own opportunities instead of waiting for someone to hand them to you. If something happens where you feel broken, but you know there's a dream out there waiting for you, then know this: you can create your own opportunities. It's up to you. If you're passionate about a goal or anything you want to do, create and design the opportunity in the best way you can.

Related: Seth Godin: 'The Person Who Fails the Most Wins'

For example, if you're interested in a new career but aren't sure what the culture looks like from a workplace environment, offer to work as a free intern so you can get some hands-on experience. The people who wait for the door of opportunity to swing wide open so they can waltz through will likely be waiting a lifetime. Sometimes you have to walk right up to that locked door and break it down.

2. Power through like a champion.

Champions experience rough times like everyone else. But you know what? They simply power through them. I hadn't learned how to be a champion yet when I felt broken and desolate about losing my dream as a professioanl athlete. Since then I've learned that champions develop alternate winning plays that will put them on top. Absolutely nothing stops them.

Related: Afraid of Failure? Think Like a Scientist and Get Over It

They grow stronger through the challenges. If life is easy for you, then you're not going to grow. It's the difficulties that present the opportunities for growth. One of the biggest mistakes most people make when confronted with failure or a negative experience is they don't look for the "positive" in the negative. There's value in every experience no matter if it's a positive or a negative one, and it's up to you to analyze the situation and create an opportunity to turn that negativity into a gift.