Failure is that phase which we all experience in our lives. But there are very few people who manage to learn success from those failures. It’s no surprise that why failure has earned a bad reputation – failure is always seen as a worst-case scenario. Whenever you imagine or hear the word failure, you get angry or frustrated, but only few are able to extract the opportunity out from failures.
We have all succeeded and failed. I have noticed that fear of failure runs a close second to the fear of dying for some people. Consider this – the fear of giving feedback to your boss can go like this in under-a-second: “If I give my boss feedback, he/she might not like it and fire me; if I’m fired I won’t have any money; if I don’t have any money, I can’t buy food; if I don’t have food, I’ll die.” Snap! Just like that we’ve equated the risk of telling our truth to the boss to…dying! How did that happen? It happens because the amygdala in our brain sends us all kinds of fear signals, rational or not. Unless we stop, pay attention, and put other parts of our brain to work, we’ll keep letting fear of failure rule too much in our lives.
No one succeeds at anything, even their best skill set, all the time. Absolutely NO ONE. Think about it.
I’m not making light of failure – big ones are hugely costly and painful to us, our businesses, our relationships, and our world. Still, the power we give that word in our day-to-day lives, needs to be in context and put into rational perspective. While some failures carry more baggage than others, some would say, they can also carry more opportunity. It’s a choice point every time we and/or those we lead, “fail.” How do YOU choose to respond? What good can YOU gain from your failures?
Failure can be our friend when we take a deeper look. After all, when children learn to walk and talk, they fail constantly. We happily cheer their successes, but let’s remember, it’s all those failures that got them up on two feet in the end. JK Rowling was turned down as a “failed” children’s book writer multiple times. I’m sure you all have at least as many examples of successful “failures” as I do. It’s how we grow – and I like to grow, and so do most people.
Our worlds are increasingly ambiguous and unpredictable. Who could have anticipated a global pandemic would break roots in 2019? And upend the world of work almost overnight?
Avoiding failure is nearly impossible in some environments. Particularly those that are highly volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous. So cut yourself — and your colleagues — some slack if a deadline is missed or you've found some errors in a project.
There may be other factors causing distraction and stress. When ambiguity is decreasing the likelihood of goal achievement, adjust goal targets or pivot the business.
Try to root out errors made out of sloppiness or poor planning, but also recognize how often changing circumstances can upend the best-laid plans. Focus on what your team can learn about operating better under the reality of stress, distraction, and ambiguity rather than bemoaning that the world changed around your perfect plan.
A core principle of design thinking is the idea of failing fast and learning from failure. This mindset embraces failure as a natural part of the creative process. Trial and error provide the opportunity to continuously make things better.
As Thomas Edison famously said about inventing the light bulb, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." When you see your failures as data points, you create a new opportunity for improvement.
Sometimes, a small failure becomes the setback that sparks a renewed commitment to a goal or project. You may have subconsciously put the goal on autopilot or become distracted by other priorities.
The failure can provide a stimulus that adds energy and motivation where it might have lagged.
Success Vs Failure:
If the definition of failure is not achieving a goal, then does meeting a goal equal to success? To some extent, yes. But that definition feels too confining. Success is psychologically bigger than goal achievement itself. And importantly, it is possible to feel like a successful person even in the face of failure.
Let's be real — it is important to feel successful. When do you allow yourself to feel successful? If you make success contingent only on achieving outcome goals, you might start to find yourself never feeling good enough.
Instead, let's consider an alternative definition of success. Where we allow ourselves to feel successful for all the efforts we put forth. Rather than the outcomes.
Success is knowing what you want out of life and feeling proud of yourself for investing in what is meaningful to you. Success and failure can be highly subjective. A more open mindset may help you reframe your failure to success.
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