Go ahead, make mistakes. The worst that can happen is you become memorable.
– Sara Blakely : Founder and CEO of SPANX
Reading time – 7-9 minutes
Over the years, the notion that failure means doom and embarrassment has started to soften. We are slowly warming up to the fact that in order to be successful (whatever the endeavour is), you WILL mess up and make mistakes along the way. And you know what? That is ok.
However, despite all the motivational cheer-leading and quotes we see on Instagram, it can still be embarrassing, leaving our ego bruised and self-belief knocked. So, whilst it is important to “fail your way to success” so they say, it is also important to learn how to bounce back from your failure. ASAP.
Over the years, I have had my fair share of “learning curves”. From failing my AS levels and driving test, to admitting defeat on the dream of running a bar for holiday makers abroad in less than a year, I know a thing or two about bouncing back from failure.
But before I reveal my big five tips, first let’s look into why this ‘bounce-back-ability’ thing is so important.
First, as Matthew Syed says in his brilliant book Bounce, “it is practice, not talent, that holds the key to success”. Practice involves repetition. If we gave up every time we failed, there would be no repetition, therefore no practice, no success.
Second, bouncing back is a determinant of grit. As Angela Duckworth shares in her book of that title, Grit, she says, “failures are going to happen, and how you deal with them may be the most important thing in whether you succeed. You need fierce resolve… grit”. You can’t let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses. You need to learn to bounce back.
I know this sounds strange, and you’re thinking ‘Alice, why on earth would I feel grateful for failing’ but gratitude is a powerful way to shift your mood and mindset. This is crucial for bouncing back as quick as you can. There is a way to do this properly, though. Don’t just say it for the sake of it. Think about why you are grateful for it… is it because it is making you more resilient, did you learn a valuable lesson, has it made you more aware of warning signs?
Practising gratitude is a powerful way to reframe any situation, not just failure.
Failure feels personal. Our ego doesn’t take too kindly to it, which is what makes it so hard to digest. One of the ways I quickly learn from my mistakes and move on, is to separate them from my identity of ‘Alice’. I will learn from the mistake by reframing it as one of my personas (we all have good and bad qualities to our personality, aka personas). For example, “Control Freak Alice” is the one who pushes too hard, is impatient, or takes on too much as she doesn’t trust anyone. If a failure arises from that, I will look at what “Control Freak Alice” did. This slight separation is kinder to yourself but still provides the valuable insight and learning we need from the failure.
I think it is slightly unrealistic to feel fantastic after a mess up. I don’t think I have met anyone that has had a royal whoopsie then popped open the champers to celebrate. Therefore, I think it is more realistic to have a “mourning period”. A moment to be sad about it and be ok that you are sad about it!
The key of course is to make sure you don’t dwell there, so put a time frame on it!
I remember when I was younger, losing my job, I knew deep down it was beyond my control and something I could bounce back from, but I needed the ability to be sad about it in that moment. I just lost my job, of course I wanted to cry! I told my friends and explicitly said, I am giving myself the weekend to wallow in self-pity about this but then I am bouncing back better than before. Mourn, then move on quickly.
They say that the only way to truly learn and master something is to teach it to others. This is so true and with failure, it acts as a cathartic way to get it out and benefit others from taking the same treacherous actions. One of the benefits of failure is the ability to help others. The ability to say “hey, I made this muck up… let me tell you so you don’t have to make the same”.
You had to expect the obligatory “learn from your failure” in a blog post about failure right! It is a cliché but true. Failure is not lost or a terrible experience, so long as you learn from it, but you know that already. Everyone says it. From Henry Ford (the visionary behind Ford motor cars) saying “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” to “if you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost” quoted by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, you KNOW that you have to learn from failure in order for it not to be wasted.
The trouble is it can be hard to do. Don’t make ‘learning from failure’ a token effort but really tap into it. Talk it out with your coach or mentor.
Ask yourself the questions like the ones below to help find the learning so you can bounce back quicker (but don’t keep reliving or replaying the situation over and over in your head)…
Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The lessons learned are priceless! A few years ago, my parents and I bought a guesthouse and bar in Cambodia with a friend of my dad’s as a partner in the venture – the expat’s dream of sun, sea and serving drinks to happy holiday makers. For various reasons, it failed! I learnt so much from it!
So don’t be afraid to fail. Know that with these five simple tips, you can bounce back from failure asap.
Finally, remember, the failure in your mind is amplified compared to what others are thinking about you. I was enjoying a date night at the magnificent cirque du soleil, when the juggling act came on. With an incredible amount of batons in his hand (maybe 8 or 9), I was thinking I couldn’t even hold them in two hands, let alone juggle them. He builds up to his finale… and then drops the lot. The crowd in unison goes “awwww”. He tried one final time though… and…. He fails again, in front of thousands. But you know what, he still got a HUGE round of applause. People admired his attempt. The audience didn’t mind. So, nor should he. The failure in your mind is more noticeable than what others see.
The next time you stumble on a setback, you can have the confidence that you now have a fool proof way to bounce back from failure asap! We live, we learn, we bounce back!
Habits are what gets you success and my blog 4 Insanely easy ways to create good habits explains four insanely easy ways to start creating good habits.
Work towards you goals in easy bit by bit using the compound-effect of the Law of the Slight Edge. In a nutshell, the Slight Edge is the law that everything adds up bit by bit. The actions we take will move us either towards our goals or away from them. Learn more about the Law of the Slight Edge in my ground-breaking article 5 Essential tips to achieve your goals in 2020.
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Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.
Are you afraid of failure? Remarkably, failure is actually beneficial and an essential part of self-development. Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress”. In this blog I am going to explore why failure is actually beneficial and an essential part of self-development.
Are you a secret self-sabotger? Me too! Here are my tips for how to stop self-sabotaging today
If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.
When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Here is why SMART goals are stupid and some top tips how you can improve your goal setting!
The way to achieve success and get your goal isn’t to do with what you might think. It has nothing to do with willpower, determination or how many degrees you’ve got. It is about the daily discipline of habits.
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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.
Copyright 2020 Alice Dartnell Limited