Most of us know that failure is a reality of life, and at some level, we understand that it actually helps us grow. Intellectually, we even acknowledge that the greatest achievers — our heroes –routinely experienced failures (see: Oprah).
But still, we hate to fail. We fear it, we dread it, and when it does happen, we make a very big deal out of it. We give it power over our emotions, and sometimes we allow it to dictate our way forward (or backward). Some of us go to great lengths to avoid failure because of all the pain and shame associated with it.
Why is it so hard to let go, forgive ourselves and move on? And how can we keep failure – or the fear of it — from derailing us? It’s because it’s EASIER. That’s right: it’s a cop out. Thinking FORWARD, about the SOLUTION? Staying POSITIVE? Those are way harder than clinging to what we are seeing (preferably while curled up in the fetus position). It’s ok. That’s a normal reflex. But when you are done, I encourage you to get back on it. These three strategies can help you do so:
1) Stop telling the story as “failure.” The only reason you’re telling the story this way is your need for approval of others.Often our fear of failure is rooted in our fear of being judged and losing others’ respect and esteem – and ironically, this means telling it this way is causing you MORE pain, not less. Just try to tell it differently. “It didn’t work out, and I am glad I learned the lesson,” may not come easy, but watch what happens when you follow that hunch.
2) Own your failure. It’s tough to admit personal responsibility when you fall short. But if you blame others for your failure (victimhood)—or deny that you failed at all (repression)—you won’t grow. And if you don’t grow, you can’t do better. Don’t make it a total loss: make it a total growth spurt.
3) Find the opportunity. The truth is that everyone fails. So let’s stop shielding ourselves from failure, and begin embracing it as a teacher. As I always say – all superstars know that failure is really just redirection. It is telling you to walk in another direction. That makes failure a friend, not a foe.