When you think of failure, do you think it is something shameful, undesirable? Understandably, failing to achieve often causes negative feelings, no matter how big or small the goal was.
And the only way to overcome those feelings is by changing the way we understand failure. Failure is part of the process of success and leaves valuable lessons if we know how to learn from it.
Three ways to redefine failure and learn from it effectively.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Learning from your mistakes is about more than just thinking about what went wrong. The first step using failure as a tool for success is to stop seeing mistakes as shameful.
Think about it! A mistake is not just a natural part of taking on a new project; it’s also part of the human experience. You should accept it as a necessary (evil) step towards achieving your goals.
In her article “Strategies for Learning from Failure”, Amy C. Edmondson classifies mistakes in three categories:
These are the mistakes we often think of as bad. They result from lack of focus or attention to the procedures needed to achieve the goal.
These mistakes happen when the goal is the product of many factors – your own motivation, previous skills, your environment, support network, and the resources you have to accomplish it. If any of these fail, you might be unable to achieve the goal.
- Intelligent mistakes
According to Adam Mendler in his article What Sales Executives Can Learn From Failure, having the freedom to make mistakes increases creativity and work performance. Without pressure to avoid mistakes, employees contribute more and are able to express more original ideas.
Example: many great inventions were discovered by accident – from Post-It notes to penicillin.
Whatever the source of the mistake, removing any negative feelings about it and re-framing it as a source of new knowledge is the first step towards learning from failure effectively.
Ok That’s Great Liz, But What’s Next?
Rethink your approach to your goal
Now that you’re looking at the mistake without any judgment, think how you got into the situation.
Did you feel less motivated to achieve your goal at some point?
Did something else distract you from it?
If your dedication and focus decreased at any time, make a note of it and try to find the reason. Finding the internal and external causes that affected you helps you prepare for them in the future.
If you’re comfortable with it, discuss the failure with someone you trust can help you see the issues from a different viewpoint.
Finding what caused the mistake is not enough to stop it in the future. You need to take steps to avoid that mistake from happening again.
If your goal was to write a novel in six months, you probably found a few reasons why you couldn’t achieve it – lack of time, bad planning, or lack of motivation.
But what can you do to prevent those issues to get in the way of your goal in the future?
For example: the novel you wanted to write in 6 months, you could scale the novel down, spend more time planning the story, or set specific times to write without distractions!
So, failure is not permanent. If you accept failure, analyze its causes and definine how you can eliminate those causes, you’re on your way to achieving your goals!