How Good are You at Failing?

Posted on Oct 5, 2012

Failing at something is a great way to learn – it provides us with a valuable opportunity to improve the way we approach something and plan a new course of action that will lead to a successful outcome.

Understandably though, failing can also be an uncomfortable and demoralising experience and we are often unkind to ourselves and others when we fail. As a result it can make us reluctant to try new approaches that are important for our future development and success.

However, if we learn to see failing as an opportunity, rather than as something which steals our momentum and makes us feel bad about ourselves, then we can turn this negative experience into something very productive.

So how do you do this?

1.  It’s not about you – remember that failing isn’t a reflection on your worth as a human being. It’s just one task you undertook that didn’t turn out the way you planned. Learn to separate yourself emotionally from the failure and look instead at what occurred. Maybe you need more information, maybe a situation has changed, maybe it’s time to consider other options or maybe the timing’s just wrong. Remember when you first learnt to ride a bike? Did it make you any less a person because you failed a couple of times before you got it right?

2.  Be proactive – if you have an alternative plan (for when things don’t go the way you want) it can make you feel more in control and prevent you losing momentum. Sometimes the failure of the first plan may highlight some information (which changes your alternative plan) but either way it will give you something to work on immediately and prevent you getting stuck feeling bad that you failed.

3.  Don’t criticise – criticising yourself or others just keeps you locked in the problem. If you have staff, then doing this as their supervisor will deter them trying anything new in the future and it doesn’t make for an enjoyable workplace. Instead consider what can be learnt, look at what to do differently and move the focus from the problem to the solution – much more productive for you and your business!

4.  Use it to learn – understand that you may fail a couple of times before you succeed and know that you’re in good company. If you read the many stories of successful people then you’ll discover they’ve failed hundreds of times, but what’s key is that they persisted and learnt from each experience – which then led to their eventual success.

5.  Take action – don’t let failure steal your momentum, adapt, change and try something else. Never let failure be your excuse for not trying something again. See failure instead as a challenge to improve the way you do things.

6.  Don’t be afraid to let go – sometimes we aim for things which aren’t a fit for us and we only discover this along the way. By no means am I suggesting giving up until you have given something a good try, but if you do get to a stage where you realise it’s not for you then that’s okay. The important thing is that you tried something and learnt something more about yourself – now get out there and find something else which is better suited to you!

Failing is always a possible outcome when you try new things. Remember that it’s not important that you failed – it’s important how you use this experience to improve yourself and your business. Embrace it, learn from it and be inspired to try more new things. Do this and you will stay firmly on the road to success!