Wednesday, February 27, 2019

3 Ways to Feel Better About Failure

I'm not sure I know many people who get up every morning and say, "Gee, I can't wait to fail today!"

Fail. Failure. Failing. Any of those words are drilled into us from childhood to avoid. No teacher or parent wants us to fail. We don't want to fail in front of friends or coworkers.

So it makes sense that when we fail, we feel terrible.

But what if we could feel good about failure -- or at least better? Could feeling better about failure mean that we are less likely to dwell on thoughts that get us nowhere? Could failing become something that energizes us instead of depresses us?

Here's some things to consider about failing:

1. What did you learn? I remember the time I climbed up on the bed to hang curtains, forgetting that the ceiling fan was on. Yep. The ceiling fan clipped me in the head and I did an Olympic-caliber flip off the bed. Sure, I had a headache, but I also learned from it (always check whether the fan is on before climbing on a bed to hang curtains). Sounds obvious, but sometimes we do the dumbest thing at work that we need to stop doing. Or, it can be a much bigger lesson about trusting the wrong person or not listening to our gut. If you frame failure in terms of it being a teaching tool, you're more likely to see it in positive terms.

2. Take baby steps. If you are taking on something that is out of the norm for you or something you consider risky, don't feel you have to jump in with both feet. For example, if you want to start your own business, try to keep your regular job (with health benefits, ahem) while you test the waters and try out your idea. If you're trying to change positions within your company, build a safety net with mentors and cross-departmental training. If you fail at your new venture, you haven't risked everything and can make some adjustments to boost your chances of success. Failure then becomes a minor setback as opposed to a colossal screw-up.

3. Ask questions. This can be one of the most difficult steps, because many people find it hard to ask others why something failed. Look at it this way: If you went to a restaurant and vowed never to go back because you had a snotty waitress who got your order wrong, don't you think it would be helpful for the restaurant manager to know that? Or, should the manager just "guess" at what was wrong and come to the conclusion that the menu needed to be changed. That doesn't make sense, and it also doesn't make sense to "guess" why you failed. Try to get some specific feedback on what went wrong so that you can better understand how to fix the problem and succeed in the future.

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