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How to Take the Sting Out of Failure

January 28, 2016

I am no stranger to failure. I think it is impossible to be a parent, an executive or business leader, and not get to know failure on a first-name basis. I have also been fortunate to experience many great successes, but this road is not paved all in gold. A good life and good career has pot holes and some twists and turns along the way.

I would like to say through my time spent with failure that I have learned to embrace it. But the truth is, I still don’t like that feeling. But, with experience and an open mind, I have gained some insights into it and myself that help take the sting out of it.

In my work as an Executive Coach, I see the fear of failure pop up time and time again for my clients who are brilliant, beautiful and already working at a high level. Yet, deep inside, many people are fearing something will go wrong or they won’t be liked or good enough or that a failure will wipe out any of the other good work they’ve accomplished.

My Top 5 Tips To Take the Sting Out of Failure

1.Learn from Your Mistakes, But Don’t Dwell In Them. Give yourself a window of time to reflect on mistakes made to try to extract some learning from the situation. Then, stop beating yourself up and move on. If you find your mind going back to dwell, just keep saying to yourself ‘Stop!’ Even changing your body position, such as moving from sitting to standing, can help move your mind onto more productive thoughts.

2. Trust. Trusting what is meant to be has been the most profound lesson for me about failure. Some opportunities just are not meant for you. It doesn’t even mean it was a true failure, just not the right fit or the right timing. Trust in the greater plan. Take a look back at your life and chances are you will see that everything has turned out for the best, despite some ups and downs along the way. Do your best work, put yourself out there fully and trust that life will assist in bringing the opportunities and people your way that will have the most profound impact on all parties involved.

3. Don’t Push Failure Away. Some people choose to dwell on failure while others deal with it by trying to completely ignore it. For this group of people, they don’t like to see that they make mistakes so feel if they don’t see it then it didn’t really happen. But when you deny, you miss the boat on learning to help strengthen yourself for the future. Take time to feel your emotions, reflect on improvements and move on.

4. Who Made Them The Judge? Failure is often in the eyes of the beholder. If you are presenting to the Board or a Senior Management group and they seem to dislike your idea, it doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. It may very well have brought great success if it was implemented. Often business decisions are qualitative. So you need to decide when to pick your battles, and also know when not to be too hard on yourself. Just because others don’t seem to like your idea, doesn’t mean you didn’t do your due diligence in preparing. It just wasn’t a fit that day.

5. Understand What Drives Your Discomfort With Failure. A lot of us spend time analyzing every little detail, but few of us spend time to openly reflect within ourselves. This often involves carving out time for a relaxing walk, yoga, meditation, or time spent with a pen and a blank page of paper to write your thoughts, dreams, ideas and feelings.

When we begin to get a glimmer of the person behind all of the doing, we will learn more about ourselves. When we understand what drives the failure, it gives it less power. It is like on the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulled the curtain on the Great and Powerful Oz to reveal he wasn’t that big, scary image that was initially projected.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2016 11:10 am

    Great post, so true! Really like point #1. Thanks for sharing and all the best!

    • January 28, 2016 12:43 pm

      Thanks Steven for taking the time to share your comments. I think too often we waste precious energy worrying about our failures. I know, I’ve been down that path many times before! But, I am learning to teach myself to stop the dwelling and move on.

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