“One who makes no mistakes makes nothing”.
Failure is probably the one thing that most of us fear. It triggers our deepest feelings of not being good enough, smart enough or just plain and simply not capable enough.
In 25 years of working with people and their personal issues, I’ve seen that the fear of failure, or failure itself, is the single most painful thing that we imagine might happen or actually experience.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that the most successful leaders have failed hundreds if not thousands of times. These can be small failures, big failures and at times very public and embarrassing failures. But as a result, we know that failure – however you define it – can not only be a good thing but is absolute necessary to help us grow and become truly successful and satisfied.
The risk of failure can cause such a fear response in us that it freezes us from taking action or making a different move, when what’s needed is to embrace it and sometimes take the jump we need to.
Being able to accept it
When we feel at risk of failure, our fear response can cause us to freeze up and avoid acting or trying a different approach. What we need to do in these situations is embrace this feeling and sometimes make the jump that we need to.
A few positive things to remember about failure:
- Failure makes us humble
- Failure teaches many of our greatest lessons
- Failure allows us to truly grow and flourish
- Without failure, we learn nothing
It can be horrible and sometimes embarrassing to ‘feel’ that you’ve failed. However, the important thing to realise is not how you failed but what you learned and how you feel about. Being able to accept it, eventually.
Whether you’ve recently experienced failure or you’re having to deliver news to someone who has not succeeded, here are four things to consider and try.
- Don’t beat yourself up (for too long)
When we fail, most of us feel miserable and we can beat ourselves up with a large stick for a very long time. I remember my greatest failures and wear them on my soul like an internal tattoo.
My most miserable and shameful failure was early on in my career when I hadn’t prepared properly for an important training session. The whole thing went completely and utterly wrong. What made this particularly challenging was that the failure was public, and the only one accountable was me – there was no escape. This for me was failure.
We all view failure differently. It is through failure that we gain so much valuable learning; from our first falls as children to the business ideas that don’t take off but from a path to the next. As a result, we should try and view these as positive experiences. If everything is going well, perhaps we’re not learning as much as we could or should be?
Over the years I’ve lost money, a husband, business opportunities and not achieved half the things I would have liked – however I don’t view any of these as failure as I’ve learned that it’s not what happens but how we move on, learn lessons and enjoy the richness of this growth and development.
So, when you fail, please:
- Be kind and look after your wounds
- Acknowledge and appreciate yourself and all you are
- Know that the most successful people in life fail on a spectacular scale
It’s healthy to take accountability and balance this with being able to learn, park learnings or emotions and move on.
- Adopt a growth mindset
Having a growth mindset enables people to believe that their abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. Even when they are faced with failure along the way.
So, what are people like that have a growth mindset?
- Embrace learning & challenges
- Deal with uncertainty
- Persevere and see opportunities
- Have resilience
- Learn new things
- Achieve more
- Are more productive
- Go the extra mile and they achieve more
Growth is a personal responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. It can be painful, it can be liberating but it requires persistence and commitment. It’s so easy to give up on growth and stop learning, but for a leader this is not an option.
By practising a growth mindset, we can open up, embrace new challenges, deal with uncertainty and grow in all facets of ourselves. It’s the best and most positive way to approach and move on from failure.
- Take time for reflection
We spend much of each day with thoughts rushing around our head. This can be worse when we think about or experience failure because thoughts can be negative and overpowering. This consumes a considerable amount of our mental energy and gives us very little time to stop.
It’s important to have a break, allow the mind to wander freely, reflect and learn from failure – ultimately learn to accept it.
It’s during this very precious down time that we get out the way of ourselves and allow our brains to relax. Away from the busyness of distracting thoughts, we have space to reflect on events, thoughts and feelings, finding a way to process these and move on. Comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve learned from what did and didn’t go well, and can move forward positively.
So, it’s time to allow yourself some time to stop. Block off periods of time without distractions and let your mind wander. Give yourself permission to do this. Start small – this could be as little as 10, 5 or even 2 minutes at a time. What’s important is to start making time regularly.
- Acknowledge & appreciate
When we feel acknowledged for who we are and the effort we put in, we feel good. And feeling recognised for the value we bring makes us feel great.
The journey of learning and growth can at times be hard, ‘growing pains’ can hurt. This is why we all need to be acknowledged and appreciated for what we bring and the energy we put into things. This is particularly hard when we’re not seeing the results.
It’s important to remember that when we fail, it’s not who we are but what we’ve tried and attempted that needs recognition and acknowledgement.
Individual capability can vary based on experience and ability, but one thing for sure is that the most capable people have been on a journey of learning to reach where they are now. It takes time and effort so we all need to be acknowledged along the way.
I know as an entrepreneur and business leader that it’s rare to receive acknowledgment for your efforts until you produce something that people can see as success. It is only then that people are able to say, “haven’t you done well”.
But we need to get encouragement along the journey, not just at the end of it.
Succeed and feel good
If you’d like more acknowledgment or appreciation, find and spend time with people who really care about you. Take the time to interact with people that encourage you and make you feel good when you’re making mistakes along the way.
If your aim is to help someone succeed and feel good, be positive at each stage of their development. Encourage them. Support them and be kind when they’re beating themselves up.
To use a childhood analogy once again, the toddler who is continually praised for trying to walk again and again, despite regularly falls, is the one who will find their feet and be running first.
Please share your thoughts with us – we love to hear from you – as we are only reflections of one another and we learn together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenny Rossiter is a leading coach and human behaviour specialist and founder of Feel Good Leadership. Author of The Masks that Men Wear and The Masks that Women Wear, for more than 20 years she has delivered leadership coaching and programmes which challenge and inspire new thinking by using practical strategies and techniques to form healthy habits. Because people who feel good achieve extraordinary things.