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  • Writer's pictureChrysanthi Sophia Karampetsi

Striving towards Success by Permitting Constructive Failure

gazing out the window

“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.”

When we were young we learned that mistakes are the worst things we can make. Permission of failure and taking risks was not an option. Individuals were spending hours of thinking and planning to avoid failure and being tagged with the label of loser or incompetent. We were expected to seek perfection at every turn.

Fortunately, lately, this misconception has changed. There is a growing trend of incredible stories of failure of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and presidents, like Jack Ma, J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, and Abraham Lincoln that turned into great success. Moreover, there is a great appreciation and understanding of failure, as mistakes are granted as excellent teachers.

Permission to be incompetent is allowing ourselves to strive, to grow, to learn better ourselves and although failure affects our confidence, provokes anxiety, leaving us exposed and unsure of what we are doing, however, it is a powerful way to commit to a new path.

How can we turn failure into constructive failure to promote success?

1. Own your failure.

Failure can be challenging, especially if we feel guilt, anger, less worthy, embarrassment, shame, and resentment. However, to learn from failure, we really need to own it. Owning failure means figuring out what went wrong, taking accountability for it, being honest about the problem and the challenges. We have to figure out whether the failure was due to lack of experience, knowledge, skill or personality mismatch. Acknowledging our pitfalls and avoiding blaming others is essential for moving on and avoiding similar errors. Being aware and open about our missteps will help us stand out and not hold back from them. Never forget that failure is unavoidable and owning failure can fuel innovation and success.

2. Get support and feedback.

Nobody wants to fail and as I mentioned above failure is connected to some unpleasant feelings. In many cases, these feelings do not allow us to maintain an objective perspective on the causation of failure. By asking for support and feedback we will identify faster why we failed. Unfortunately, sometimes we do not have all the answers and asking for feedback will give answers to our “why” questions. Reaching out to others does not have to be an admission of weakness. It takes a lot of courage to admit failure and seek support to overcome it.

3. Train yourself to react in new ways to failure.

For some people, failure is like someone whops them in the face, punches them in the gut, and breaks them down into tears. For others failure might just mean that they did not succeed this time around, they see it as a guide for their next attempts. Our reactions to failure depend heavily on how we approach it. If we approach failure with a negative mindset, our reactions will be negative. Learning to fight all negative thoughts that cross our mind and fill ourselves with positivity is the key to recovery and rebounding from failure. And that means learning to change our mindset and our internal dialogue from catastrophic thoughts to more constructive – from “I failed and I will never succeed” – to “Huh that was interesting, now I know where to pay attention….”

It might also be wise to look back and reflect on your own life how you faced past failures and overcame them. Sometimes the answers are hidden on our personal experiences and if you have dealt with it before, then you can do it again.

4. Determine early mistakes.

When people are making plans or setting goals they tend to focus on what it generally works. People sometimes do not know what they really want, they are setting unrealistic, vague and too general goals. They do not take the time to search what did not work out, where they should no longer invest their resources or to detect early signals that were precursors of failure. Before taking any action one needs to establish specific, measurable and objective goals to signal if an error will happen. If they are able to determine early mistakes they will be able to avoid bigger mistakes and act on time.

5. Get started again.

When you are spending much time focusing on the mistakes, the defeat, and grieving, you lose the opportunity of another chance! The key is to switch your focus, give space to new thoughts and plans and start working again. Do not allow negativity to slither in for a long period, instead fill your head with thoughts on the next task. By pursuing something else, you will show yourself you are still capable and strong. It will encourage you to go right back into it and try, try again.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

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