How do you view failure? Is it something you see as good or a bad? It’s a simple enough question and for most of us it’s a bad thing, right? We don’t set out to fail so if we do it’s certainly not what we wanted or intended.
So it’s settled. Failure = bad…but that’s not what I asked. I said “How do you view failure?”
Starting back at School
During our school years we all experienced the pure delight and absolute dread of finding out whether we passed or failed a particular test!
How was a good grade or a pass treated? Normally with positive emotions, praise and maybe even a treat when we got home. What about bad grades or failure? For most of us it was the complete opposite, right? Negative emotions, punishment and maybe even getting grounded when we got home. So from an early age success was good and failure was bad.
But what was the test really for? To measure our ability in that given subject to see how we were doing. What was going well and where we needed to improve. A poor grade left clues that something was not working and needed to be fixed. But that’s really hard to do when you feel demotivated for getting low marks!
This is not about being politically correct and saying there shouldn’t be a pass or fail or winner or loser but how we act after the event and what we learned about ourselves in the process.
Often we learn more from our mistakes and losses than we do from our wins, but you have to be willing to look for the answers.
Fast forward to today
If we take that same view point of failure from school and apply it so us as adults how do we greet that cheeky bit of cake you ate when you’re meant to be eating healthy? You guessed it! With the same negative emotions, punishment and self defeat as before.
Repeat this enough times and before you know it all these negative emotions build into a fear of failing. How many things have you wanted to try but never started because you were convinced you would only fail anyway?
How many of us can honestly say that we haven’t had that horrible gut feeling before?
I know I have!
A fresh perspective
A lot of my clients have been shocked when they have come clean and admitted to destroying an indian takeaway at the weekend to NOT be greeted with criticism or disapproval but instead been asked the question “Great, how was it?”
One client even accused me of killing her with kindness! The fact is that we both knew it wasn’t great and certainly won’t help their waistline, but as a coach I need to learn what happened, why it happened and most importantly. what we could do differently next time?
No longer does it get viewed as a failure to be greeted by burpees but instead, a lesson to be learned. Just like at school we take the test, get our results and learn what to do differently next time.
Learning to embrace failure
A word of warning. Just because you failed once and learned a lesson – don’t expect it to be all hunky dory next time. You could and most probably will “fail” again and again and even again. You will keep “failing” and learning until finally you are successful. It’s what’s known as failing forward. Check out Six sure fire secrets to success to learn more.
I’m sure you have heard that Thomas Edison failed some 10,000 times to invent the lightbulb….well he didn’t keep making the same mistake 9,999 times expecting different results. Each time he would learn a lesson and make a small change and try again.
So there you have it: ‘failure’ is not such a bad guy after all. In fact, a more enlightened view could be that failure is just another sign of growth and therefore should be embraced not disregarded.
So the next time things don’t quite go your way take five minutes and ask yourself this simple question: