Personal development

Failing Well

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

What is your attitude to failure? How do you react when you fail? Do you pout or cry? Do you blame others? Do you lose your temper? Do you recoil and never make another attempt? Are you so devastated that it takes you longer than it should, to get over it? Is your self-worth affected when you fail?

One of my favorite quotes says, “failure is an event and not a person.” This has been one of the most impactful lessons I have learned since I began being intentional about personal development.

We may have been taught that failing at something is a crisis to be endured. Maybe we were taught to look at failure as something negative; something to feel dirty and ashamed about. Sometimes the pressure to succeed is so great that failure can be extremely devastating for us, and we end up seeing ourselves as a failure. We ascribe feelings of guilt and shame to the experience and labels such as failure, not good enough or weak to ourselves. That failure then feeds into our self-doubts and insecurities. Because of this some of us hate to fail. I know I did. We would accept nothing but perfection.

The problem with this mindset is that the emotional implications can be great. Additionally, we may not attempt somethings because of fear of failure. As a result, we miss out on some great and wonderful things in our lives. Instead of truly living and shining, we shrink back, dim our lights and exist on the brink of realizing our dreams rather than reaching them and being fully immersed in them.

Change your mindset.

Change your mindset and learn to embrace failure! First and foremost, get off the fence and do that thing which you have been too afraid to do because you are afraid to fail. Why? Because failure is an event, not a person. Maybe you will fail, but what if you don’t? Think of the possibilities. Even if you do fail, remind yourself, failure is an event, not a person. You are not a failure. You have heard the saying; if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Learning to handle failure well is a sign of personal growth. I feel like all of us should fail at something, least once in our lives. Yes, I know it sounds strange to hear me say that; but I firmly believe that failure is one of the greatest teachers. This is how you change your mindset. View failure as a teacher rather than a foe. Failure provides us with an opportunity to learn, and if we would adopt this mindset we will begin to see a significant shift in our attitude to failure.

How to Fail Well

End it. Grieve it. Metabolize it.  Learn from it

Failing well, is not waiting for the failure to happen. Failing well is proactive. Whatever the project or situation you are working on, regular assessments of your progress or lack thereof will indicate whether you are headed toward success or failure. Have your investments thus far brought the expected returns? If it has not, is there something you can do to bring about improvement? If there is not, or you have done all that you can do, then it may be time to end it. 

In his book Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud says, “Failing well means ending something that is not working and choosing to do something else better.” He explains the difference between “giving up effort” and “giving up commitment.” Giving up on a commitment does not mean that you have to give up on effort. That effort is now free so it can be directed to another goal which is worthy of your resources.

Based on his writing I have developed my method for failing well: End it. Grieve it. Metabolize it.  Learn from it

End it. As previously mentioned we should be proactive about failure. Acknowledge when it is time to for that necessary ending to take place and do so. Painful as it may be, end it. Going to the dentist, can be painful isn’t it? But you do it anyway, because the pain of not going can become greater than the pain of going. Not only that, but the bad tooth, can possibly infect the remaining good teeth.

Grieve it. It is a loss and you should take time to grieve it as you would any loss. In order to move forward from a loss, it is necessary to grieve the loss. If you don’t, then you will remain tethered to it. “The grieving process is a mental and emotional letting go.” It is important that you face the reality of the situation as well as acknowledge and allow yourself to feel the feelings involved. Don’t hide from them or deny them. By doing so, you free up your mental and emotional energy for what is to come next. 

Metabolize it. I refer to Cloud’s metabolize method here. Just as your body metabolizes food, uses the nutrients for nourishment and discards the waste material, so it is with our experiences. We should keep what we can use and discard what is not useful. Carefully examine the experience, and determine what was good about it. Was it the relationships you built, or the new skills you acquired, was it the strengths you acquired or the growth you experienced in a particular area of your life. Be intentional about making these things a part of who you are and determine to continue to build on them.

Then look at what was negative about the experience. Did you make some mistakes? Did you make some poor decisions, did you hurt someone or were you hurt by someone? Were you careless with your trust? These you want to eliminate and leave behind.

Learn from it. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this experience? What can I learn from this failure? What worked and what did not work? What is the lesson here? What am I going to do differently in the future? What wisdom can I draw from this? Are there somethings that I need to stop doing? Are there some things that I should begin doing? Write down your responses and take action where needed. Reflect on these lessons regularly until you have fully embraced them and they have become a part of you.

Photo by pure julia on Unsplash

Final Thoughts…

You can change your mindset and make failure your teacher instead of your foe. You no longer need to feel the negative feelings of guilt, shame and regret that you were taught to feel, when it comes to failure. They will only use up energy that you will need to invest in you new beginning. This could be one reason we sometimes find it difficult to move on from failure; our much needed energy for our new beginning is tied up in feelings of guilt, shame, regret and doubt and we have not grieved the loss.

Remember that an ending does not mean finality. It only means you are making space for a brand new beginning. Something has to end in order for something to begin. As one day ends, a new day begins!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I would love to hear in the comments if you found it helpful. Please subscribe to have more great content delivered directly to your inbox. Until next time, Namaste.😊

By Leona

Passionate is one of the best words that describe me! I usually put my all into whatever I am doing. I have a strong desire to speak, write, and to inspire others. This is is one of my first steps in fulfilling that desire.

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