In Part 1 of the Personal Growth Series, we explored what failure is, where it comes from and why we work so hard to avoid it. I covered some common actions people take to avoid failure, and what you can do if you find yourself in any of those situations. If you missed that post, you can check it out here. In today’s post, we will explore how you can use failure as a tool to unlock your full potential.
How do you get better at failure?
Using failure is a great skill, but it takes time to develop. Don’t expect to make monumental change overnight, but instead push yourself outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis to promote growth. Here are some suggestions on how you can get better at failure:
Practice: Practice failing in a safe space so you can get comfortable with the feeling of failure. It’s okay to start small. Set goals for yourself, and see what happens. Observe how you feel as you fail. Is there emotions that you are assigning to failure that aren’t serving you? What can you do to remove them?
Play with Failure Make failure a game! Keep a record of how many times you fail in a week/month/year. Note what you learn from each failure, making it a journal of lessons instead of shortcomings. If you are looking for a real challenge – set a “failure goal” for yourself. Aim to fail 3 or 4 times a month. Soon you will be seeking out situations where failure is an option, while at the same time positioning yourself to possibly win big.
Let yourself be a beginner: Try something new, let yourself be a learner so you can fail in a safe space. No one expected you to be able to ice skate without falling down on your first try. Put yourself back in this space to see what you can learn.
Plan for Failure: Prepare for how you will take care of yourself if you do fail. How can you practice self care? What will help you to look at the situation objectively and find the learning experience in the failure? Here are some ideas for how to practice self care if you need inspiration.
Change your Language around Failure: Try to exchange any of these phrases “learning opportunity”, “feedback”, “data” or “experiment” for the world “failure” in most situations. This changes it to something with a positive connotation that serves us, and also keeps things objective.
Pick one of the five options above to try this week, and design an experiment for yourself. Don’t worry about what the result is, just give it a try and observe what happens and how you feel. Do you feel anxious without the level of control you usually have? Did anything new pop up that you wouldn’t have thought of if you were dictating the results? What did you learn about yourself and others along the way?
What are the benefits of failing?
There are so many benefits to failing that often get overlooked! I hope as you experiment with getting good at failure, you experience some of the benefits below:
The Unexpected: Failure is a great tool to broaden your horizons. You might come across something new or unexpected as you get results you didn’t anticipate. Have you heard those stories of people being fired, and finally changing careers as a result? Often we don’t know what’s truly possible until we are shown a different perspective. Keep your eyes out for novel ideals or new experiences and see just how far you can stretch the possibilities presented to you.
Resilience: Being able to fail, and try again will truly develop resilience and grit. These are such great qualities to exercise, especially in our twenties, as we navigate the many uncertainties of life. As you try and fail, but try again, you will develop internal confidence instead of counting on confidence that is built upon external performance and other people’s feedback. Being your own keeper is both liberating and empowering.
Opportunity: Through failure can come many opportunities. Think about those celebrities you researched at the end of the first post. So many times failure in one area, opened up doors in another. The same can happen for you if you preserve. The combination of personal growth and additional opportunities as a result of failure will fast track you to living the life you want, on your own terms.
What is the cost of avoiding failure?
If you are interested in personal growth, choosing to avoid failure will cost you dearly. After a few years your comfort zone may start to feel mundane, and eventually it might feel stifling. If you don’t grow as a person, you won’t have the chance to experience true success. You have to take some risk in order to experience reward. Additionally if you don’t let yourself experience failure, you might end up reinforcing the limiting thoughts you identified around failure. If you can’t prove otherwise to yourself, why would your thought patterns around ability, capacity, and worth change?
Failure is a complex topic, but one worth diving into. Developing awareness around what failure really is and how it can serve you, and allows you to use it objectively. When you stop trying to control your environment, and let failure happen – things are actually significantly less stressful. Learn as you go, and don’t be too hard on yourself! Working positively with failure is skill and it takes time and patience to really succeed. There is no growth without challenge and failure.
I hope you have enjoyed this two part series on How to be okay with failure, and I would love to hear how your experiments are going! Please leave a comment below, or reach out to me via email at Justine@southofthirty.com. Keep learning!