Perhaps your professional life isn't going exactly like you thought it was supposed to go. Maybe you've made a series of bad decisions or even one really bad choice that you can't seem to bounce back from. You may not realize it right now, but you do have options. You could wallow in self-pity, or remain angry at those whom you blame for your current situation. Or you can turn your past disappointments into great accomplishments. How? Just follow the path of the heroes who've gone before you. They will show you how to transform past adversity and failures into springboards for success.

1. Take an objective look at where you've come from.

Thomas Edison believed there were no such things as mistakes, only eliminated options that brought him one step closer to his goal. There is no such thing as "failure," he claimed, only lessons to be learned.

Most people find it difficult to see a failure in an analytical, impartial fashion; many of us were raised to believe that if we failed at something, we were failures.
If you find yourself in a stuck emotional state, logically and dispassionately examine the course you chose and determine why it did not yield the result you wanted, and then consider why it was not appropriate for that particular situation. You'll need to acknowledge what you did that led to the failure, and take responsibility for it. But, like Thomas Edison, you should take what you can learn from it and move on.

2. Focus on the purpose on the other side of the pain.

Happiness does not come from the elimination of pain, but from the realization of your purpose. Keep reminding yourself why you are doing what you're doing. Even less lofty purposes, such as "I just work here to pay the rent and my car payment," can be transformed over time if you look at the higher purpose for why you might be there. The key is to look beneath the surface to find the spiritual meaning. Without a sense of purpose, you will lack motivation and consciously or subconsciously doom yourself to failure.

3. You can't see the whole parade from where you stand.

You never know from where you stand whether what you are experiencing will turn out to be good or bad until enough time has passed. When people get stuck in "Why me?" mode as a result of a severe business loss, they require a mindshift in order to recover a sense of belief, hope, and inner strength so they can move on. When we make a deliberate decision not to give up, then life seems to present opportunities we hadn't thought of or couldn't create ourselves.

4. Its not whether you have won or lost in the past; it's the person you have to become in order to win in the future.

Beyond visualizing the physical objects or the status you seek, you need to look within and say, "What kind of person do I need to become in order to get what I want?" To become that person, you may need additional education or training in your field or another career; you may need to hire a coach or find a mentor to guide you through the steps to becoming who you want to be. Or you may require a character shift, to be reborn, in a sense. Lance Armstrong, for example, had never won a single Tour de France before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He fought back hard and won. Today he credits his great cycling success to the person he became as a result of having cancer. He says, "Cancer saved my life."

5. Try to fall forward every time – in the direction of your goal.

Falling is a part of life – accept it. We are all continually creating our own destinies through the choices we make and our desire and determination to see them through. Perhaps you've suffered a major business defeat such as downsizing or termination. Realize that you can leave that job on good terms with a handshake and a letter of recommendation, or with the threat of a lawsuit against those who fired you. How you handle the crisis has a dramatic impact on how you will succeed from that point forward.

For example, early in his football coaching career, Lou Holtz was fired from his job at the University of Arkansas for no apparent reason. He could have sued, sulked or slandered. But instead, he shook hands and moved on, keeping the good friends he had there. When his dream job at the University of Notre Dame job came open, Holtz' applied. Notre Dame started calling Holtz' past employers – including the University of Arkansas. Arkansas gave him a raving recommendation and Notre Dame hired him. Had Holtz chosen to react negatively after being fired at Arkansas, he would have virtually guaranteed a bad performance review, which could have cost him his dream job at Notre Dame. How we react to bad things today has a huge impact on what happens to us tomorrow.

6. "Retreat" does not equal "defeat."

A retreat can be a valuable opportunity to regroup and rethink strategies and goals. For example, one of the worst business mistakes you can make is to continue to pour money into a failing business; in this situation, knowing when to call it quits and creatively develop a better plan is essential.

Captain Oliver Hazard Perry is famous for captaining the ship that bore the flag saying "Don't give up the ship" during the War of 1812. The little known fact is that he did abandon that ship! When 80% of his men were dead and his ship was sinking, he paddled a little john-boat over to another ship, took control of it, and soundly defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie.

Claim Your Future Success

Many heroes of the past have blazed a trail for us to follow if we really want to overcome tragedies and failures. Remember, just because you may have failed does not mean you are a "failure." Failure is an attitude, not a place. Get up and keep crawling, sliding, and falling forward in the direction of your dreams. If you follow the hero's path, eventually you will get there.

Dan Castro is an attorney who spent nine years studying the lives of people who have overcome extreme adversity. He wanted to determine if there was a pattern to their behavior that could explain their success. His research shows that people who turn tragedy into triumph have been following the same patterns of behavior for thousands of years. These patterns are explained in the book Critical Choices that Change Lives: How Heroes Turn Tragedy into Triumph. Download the first chapter free at: