Making a mistake on a spreadsheet; getting the boot from your job; or choosing the wrong career path. Failure, in many different guises, impacts every single one of us at some point, even the most successful of us.
Ever heard of the old saying, “form is temporary, class is permanent”, and failure can be just that – temporary. In fact, I know from my own journey that with the right mindset and attitude, failure can become the very thing that pushes you to greater things.
It’s really all about reframing what you think you know about failure and recognising that going two steps forward and one step back is an often-necessary feature of the path to success.
Obviously, this is rather easier said than done. Our culture rewards those who strive for perfection, but as we all know, perfection doesn’t exist, so why hold yourself to such unrealistic expectations?
It’s not about deciding what do if you are to fail, but rather knowing how to respond when you do fail.
Five Ways to Become Firm Friends with Failure:
#1: Understand the Cause
To accept your failure, you must have the courage to stand and face your fear. Never underestimate how important this first stage really is. It’s a natural human reaction to attempt to turn your back on uncomfortable situations and emotions. After all, we have all made a mistake and tried to bury it under the sand, pass the buck, or make excuses.
However, if you really want to grow and embrace failure, this just isn’t an option anymore.
In the immediate aftermath of something going wrong, don’t concern yourself with trying to repair a mistake or who might have been affected by it – first and foremost you need to understand what went wrong.
Own up, and rather than beating yourself up, realistically assess the outcome of your misstep and why you allowed it to come about. It’s crucial to do this before anything else.
#2: Take Ownership
Once you’ve determined the how’s, why’s and what’s of what has gone wrong, and how you might prevent this issue in the future, it’s time to take ownership.
Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, everyone in that organisation will want you to summon the maturity, courage and strength of character to say that something hasn’t quite gone the way you wanted it to.
This doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out process. It’s as easy as sitting down with your colleagues, or even by yourself to examine why your start-up failed, why you forgot to send that important email and most importantly, what you’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
#3: Learn Your Lesson
Learning from your failure is the key aspect to making peace with your yourself. When you rearrange your thought process, you can give yourself the space to turn failure into opportunity.
Think about any great achievement in your life – that promotion, buying your first home, or having children – each and every one of these required a certain aspect of changing the way you think, particularly the later.
The same applies to when you make mistakes – after all, what’s the point in hammering yourself for something that is inherently human? And that’s all mistakes, and ultimately failure really are.
Once you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and you’ve accepted your fate, vow to learn something from it.
Before pressing ahead though, give yourself a pat on the back. While, yes, you’ve made a misstep somewhere along the line, celebrate the fact that you’ve learned something new on your journey.
#4: Move On
Quite often, it’s not the mistake itself that causes the damage. It’s the lasting impact of not being able to manage your guilt and regret.
Do not allow the experience of failure to mar your future; don’t let it define your life and how you interact with the pursuit of success. Replaying your past repeatedly and wishing things had been different, will solve nothing.
Life isn’t fair, it never has been and never will be so; never fall into the trap of feeling as though you’re a victim, you’re not and it’s important to come to terms with that and move on.
Forgiving yourself is the most important part of embracing failure. You will slide into the victim trap if you cling on to those memories as a negative experience. Instead, continually remind yourself of what you learnt during this time.
#5: Share Your Experience
Sharing your experiences about what you’ve learnt with those around you is great way to free yourself from the shackles of failure. Having said that though, it’s important to frame your narrative in the right way, no matter if you’re speaking as an employer, employee or even as a friend.
Don’t tow the usual line of, “Jeez, I’m so stupid, guess what happened to me a few weeks back.” Don’t give yourself the opportunity to fall into old habits and claim back your own narrative.
Lead the story with your newly found viewpoint, “Guess what happened to me a few weeks back. It was a tough day, but I really learned a hard lesson.”
By telling the story in this way, you can incorporate each of the five points we’ve talked about in this piece.