The Positive Side of Failure

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It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

~ J.K. Rowling

In my coaching practice, conversations around the fear of failure surface over and over. Failure is not a discriminator, it favors no one, even the best laid plans aren’t immune to unforeseen obstacles. It’s a basic fact of life, as well as business and those who fight or deny its existence are losing an uphill battle.

According to Google’s dictionary, failure is defined as “lack of success, the omission of expected or required action, the act or state of not functioning”. Yet, in our society we assign so much more to this word, giving it power it doesn’t deserve to blame, shame and destroy.

A few years ago, I was contemplating my intention for the New Year. It dawned on me that my underlying perfectionist tendencies were preventing forward movement. Though others might not have seen them, I knew they existed and as an entrepreneur that’s as good as suicide!

I had built my own little comfort zone, or jail, let’s call it was it was and happily obliged to stay inside. So, my charge for 2018 became to “embrace failure”. In one brave, decisive moment, I gave myself permission to try new things, fall down, pick myself up, to learn and most of all, let go of the fear attached to things not working out like I thought they should. For. The. Whole. Year.

I felt lighter, emotionally freer and began to better understand the positive side of failure.

Failure is not a permanent

This too, shall pass. Just knowing a moment lasts for only a moment helps to lessen the blow. Whether it’s a small omission resulting in a lost client, or a larger event like closing company doors and laying off an entire workforce, it’s still only a brief snapshot of time. Everything happens for a reason, even when we might not know what it is. A mantra I rely on is, “Isolate it to this day”, meaning leave it in the point of time where it belongs and don’t carry it into the next.

It’s all in how you frame it

Others will have an opinion, but ultimately you are responsible for the emotion assigned to an event. I’ve seen clients who lost businesses around the 2008 downturn. The reality is, lots of people did. However, subconsciously they internalized the defeat, piled on heaps of guilt and 10 years later are still carrying that emotional weight. Once they honestly forgive themselves and reframe the experience by acknowledging the facts around the situation, they can see the experience for what it had to teach them. Leave the experience and take the lesson.

You are not a failure

Of all the chances that your mom and dad had to make someone else, they made you. You exist. Period. Forgive me if this sounds corny, but it’s true! You are living & breathing, and this undeniable truth means that you are a success. Now, the actions you take, and the judgements assigned can be viewed as either successes or failures (though, I prefer the term learning moments). But you, my friend, are a success! And extrapolating the judgement from an experience to define you as a person is unequivocally giving it more power than it is due. Stop it!

It builds confidence

I hear people say all the time, “I just need more confidence”. Well, according to Rich Litvin’s year long study on the subject, he concluded that confidence is the result of doing a difficult thing not the requirement. What’s actually required is courage. And we need courage most when things get scary. I like to think of courage as a muscle. Just as our biceps and quads grow stronger when they’re engaged through regular training, so is our ability to dig down deep, muster up some courage and face a challenge head on. The more we do it, the stronger the muscle or habit becomes and the easier it is to perform the act, thus building our confidence.

It calls on hope

One of the most powerful truths I’ve learned is to believe something positive awaits on the other side of a difficulty. That’s called hope. This has seen me through some very low personal and entrepreneurial valleys. It requires faith. It is a mindset choice and one I’ve had to train my brain to understand. The beautiful thing about hope, it’s like an incredibly strong magnet pointing me towards the finish line and literally pulling me through the journey. It forces me to keep my eye on the prize, deal with the learning moment, feel the feelings, release them and resurface on the other side, stronger, smarter and more equipped for what’s next.

Failure is a key success factor

Think about it, failure exposes vulnerabilities, bruises egos, pushes people outside of comfort zones and usually has a cost attached. It’s in these moments of shock and regrouping that our brains naturally look for answers and understanding. When everything is smooth sailing, we usually don’t think twice. The most successful people out there have learned the habit of failing often, failing fast, learning the lesson and moving forward. With this approach, who could you become?

Truthfully, failure is your greatest teacher and that alone is reason to embrace it. Are you teachable? Willing to learn? Desiring growth? Instead of fearing failure, try turning toward it to see the positive things it can bring!

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