I have been thinking a lot about success and failure recently. Particularly failure.
It’s not a very popular things to be talking about. So much of life is geared around success and living the good life, to such an extent that some people seem to shut down and change the subject if it comes up.
However, lately I feel that I have been looking at failure in a new way and wanted to share my insights with you. Here goes…
Since I have been self-employed, I find myself continually experimenting with ideas to develop my business, trying stuff out to see what happens, with no guarantee of success. It’s like sowing seeds and waiting to see what sprouts.
In this context, I have to be ‘free to fail’, to let something be a disaster and see what I can learn from it. And it feels good.
I am learning so much in the process:
1. It’s all in the mind
Your individual approach to failure is the product of your personality, upbringing, education and life experience. Recognising where you are starting from is important and helps you understand why you react in a particular way to the idea of failing. At times in my corporate job, there was a huge focus on achievement and performance, and less sense of freedom to try and experiment… and fail. I see that I can let go of that conditioning and find that I can learn so much from every experience.
2. Failing doesn’t mean anything about you
It’s so easy to attach meaning to failure… to make it mean something about you. Your mind tells you, “If you mess up, you are somehow inferior. You are never going to succeed at this”. Your mind is trying to keep you safe, but in reality, it’s keeping you small. Success or failure means absolutely nothing about your intrinsic worth as a person. If anything, the very fact that you tried something shows that you are courageous.
3. Failure is absolutely necessary if we are to grow and move forward
If you don’t want to stay small, you have to risk failure. There’s no way around it. It’s part and parcel of growing. When you think about a baby learning to walk, they fall over again and again, but they keep getting up and trying again. They risk falling over because they want to walk. It’s part of the process – an unavoidable one.
So what changes when you see failure differently? And how can you embrace it?
Once you give yourself permission to fail, everything changes:
- That thing you are putting off doing out of fear starts to feel less intimidating
- You get curious about what you will learn from the experience rather than worrying about how you will feel a failure
- You start to look for ways to try and fail – a coach once encouraged me to go for ‘spectacular fails’ – to actively seek out things that seemed way beyond me, because then I would be at the edge of my comfort zone and really learning
- You see everything as a learning opportunity
My view of failure has changed completely. I don’t like the word anymore, because it has such negative connotations. Instead I know that there is ALWAYS something that can be learned from what appears to be a failure, so it is not really a failure at all.
What is your view of failure? How is it shaping your to do list this week?
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If you want help to take action on something, which you are afraid could be a failure, please email me to set up a complimentary coaching conversation.