The Secret To Making Friends With Failure
Have you made friends with failure?
While at a meeting with other leaders some years ago, I had an interesting conversation about failure.
“How do you feel about failure?” my fellow leader asked.
“I do not like to fail. I avoid it at all costs.” I adamantly replied.
My response was met with a big grin and some chuckles!
Looking back on that memorable moment I see how my view of failure has changed! Back then I viewed failure as the worst possible outcome – deadly. Final!
Here’s what I mean:
Imagine a tight rope stretched out between two high rises. I’m perched on the edge of one of the high rises poised to step out onto the tight rope with pole in hand. Safely reaching the high rise on the other side – that would be success.
A slight misstep, gusty breeze, or bobble and a fall – that would be failure; and probably deadly!
You see my perspective on failure was pretty extreme. In my mind, there were only two possibilities: you either succeed or fail. The trouble with that kind of thinking is that it overlooks the fact that failure is actually a part of success! That’s why it’s critical to make friends with failure because there will be plenty of opportunities to bond with it as you pursue your goals, dreams, or purpose.
Here’s the good news: Unlike tight rope walking mistakes, odds are high that your failures won’t be fatal. They may bruise your ego or nick your self-confidence temporarily, but failure is a fantastic teacher if you are willing to learn!
You may not think the fear of failure is an issue for you, because we experience it in slightly different ways. It may show up as…
- An unwillingness to try new things
- Being hesitant to take on challenging projects or take risks
- Failing to follow through
- Low self-confidence
What’s the secret to making friends with failure and moving forward?
1. Accept It
Everyone fails! It’s a normal part of life. Trying to avoid failure actually leads to…you guessed it: failure! Not accepting failure is actually “failing” to accept it, right?
In order to succeed, you must venture outside your comfort zone, risk, and experiment. In that process, you are sure to have some less than successful experiences. The key is to learn and grow in that process.
2. Alter How You View It
What makes the fear of failure so powerful is the way you chose to view it. Thankfully, you have the power to alter your view of failure and that simple tweak changes everything. You can view failure as detrimental and catastrophic or you can view it as a chance to learn and grow on your way to your goals and dreams.
If you allow it to confirm the negative thoughts already swimming in your head, failure is your foe.
If you chose to see it as proof that you had the courage to take a risk, failure is your friend!
Letting your self-worth hinge on your successes or failures is precarious up and down adventure because life is full of both! Instead find your value in who you are – who God created you to be, not what you do. It’s your choice!
Altering your view of failure and seeing it as preparation for the future, a learning opportunity, or a chance to grow – that’s empowering! I dare you to search for the positives in each and every failure.
3. Adjust In Light of It
When the fear of failing surfaces, it is paralyzing. In order to move forward, you’ll need to make some adjustments in how you are approaching your goal.
First, ask yourself…
- What does failure mean to me?
- How is failure connected to my Fear Monster?
Next, adjust your goal so that it addresses your fear of failure.
Finally, break your goal down into smaller more palatable action steps.
For example, if your goal is to “write a book by November” but your fear of failure has you paralyzed because you have doubts about your ability to complete the book, try adjusting your goal to “learn something new about myself in the process of writing a book by November.” Then, break that task down by setting a smaller goal: I will devote an hour a day four times a week to writing. After each time you write, observe what you have learned about yourself in the process and write these observations down in a notebook. You might discover that you don’t work well under pressure or that you are most creative in the early morning.
When November rolls around, even if the book is not complete, you have accomplished the learning portion of the goal so the effort was not a total failure.
This may seem like semantics, but your thoughts and expectations play a key role in your relationship with failure.
4. Anticipate It
Failure is inevitable, so anticipate it! Consider in advance what potential failures you might encounter in pursuit of your goals and find creative ways to safe-guard against them. Seeking solutions when you are calm and level-headed makes sense. And when those inevitable failures happen, take the time to explore what you will do differently next time.
5. Admit It
Goals by their very nature are a stretch or they wouldn’t be goals. Admit that you lack what you need to accomplish the task. Failure is more likely when you attempt to reach our goals in your own strength. You need God’s help and guidance along the way. Think of Him as your balance pole as you navigate the tight rope of your goals. How will you actively include Him in the process?
What if there was a safety net below the tight rope? Walking from one high rise to the other would be significantly less scary and a fall less dangerous, right?
In the same way, trusted and more experienced advisors serve as your safety net as you take steps towards your goal. Advisors might be an expert in the area you are pursuing or someone who possess strengths in an area that you are weak. Or it might be a coach. The beauty of working with a coach is that they are able to help you flesh out your vision, create a strategy to achieve your goals, refine your process, uncover destructive mindsets and patterns, and expand your perspective. The support and accountability provided by a coach is invaluable!
I admit to having a fear of heights – tight rope walking – now that would make me more than nervous!
Failure on the other hand – we’ve bonded! We’ve had to – we’ve spent a good bit of time together! There are still moments where failure feels like a foe, but it no longer has the same paralyzing power it once did. Failure is just a part of the process.
Now I understand why my intense aversion to failure was met with a big smile and chuckles. It is really my friend.
Here’s the crazy thing: I’ve discovered that the fear of success can be just as tricky!
What’s your relationships with fear? Friend or Foe?
© Can Stock Photo / Elnur