How successful are you at embracing failure? Failure is inevitable. No matter how hard we try, sometime, somewhere, things aren’t going to go our way. Failure can be a minor inconvenience, or it can be a disaster that churns your stomach. You can step into a landmine, and suddenly your world is flipped end over end. Failure is embarassing and awkward, and you can feel your throat tighten, your face redden and your pulse racing. The more you try, the more you will fail. And if you don’t try at all, failure will still manage to find you.
Rather than pretending that failure doesn’t exist, we can embrace it as an inevitable life experience, and transform it into something of value.
The sting of the moment will still be there. But rather than denying the reality and your emotional response, acknowledge them, analyze them, and learn from them. Consider the following analytic framework to transform failure into future success.
- First, what went wrong? Did you lose a client, miss a deadline, destroy a relationship? Write it down.
- Second, what are all the contributing factors? Some may have been in your control; you may have misquoted something or failed to respond to someone. And some may be beyond your immediate control, such as natural disasters. List them all.
- Third, what could you have done to avoid the contributing factors? What coningency plans could you have made? List all the possibilities for each. For the causes that seem beyond your immediate control, now that you see their impact, what can you do to mitigate these?
- Fourth, evaluate all the potential actions, and select those which are feasible and have the most impact. You might set up a tickler file to meet deadlines, or work assertively to improve communications, or create contingency plans to address critical needs.
- Fifth, place things in perspective. You contributed to the situation, but there were other factors as well. Don’t deny your responsibilities, but also be kind to yourself.
- Finally, take action. Implement your key changes and act to prevent a recurrence of failure.
Take control of the situation as it is. Transform yourself from a victim into an agent of change. Use the experience to improve processes and grow professionally.
Failure can be devastating. But when it strikes, be open to embracing failure and gaining invaluable lessons from the experience.