Failure: fail·ure, ˈfālyər, noun 1. lack of success. Example: me trying to take a jumping picture.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been what I consider to be a high achiever and someone who always makes sure a job is done right. I care about the work I produce because I believe that my work is a reflection of myself and I want it to be the highest quality. One of my consistent strengths according to StrengthsFinder is competition, so I very much like to win and produce results. Therefore, I hate failing and take it very personally. I would not put anything out into the world that I did not believe in, but inevitably sometimes projects do not turn out how I hope. As hard as I try, I am not and will never be perfect and hard work and best intentions are sometimes fruitless.
Being a leadership consultant has forced me to face this aversion to failure and learn to grow from it. Although I’ve only been on the job for about two months now, I’ve already had a few failures and missteps I wish I could go back and change. However, it is never a productive use of time to dwell on the past for too long. There will always be situations when, even if all the perfect steps are taken, you still end up in a mess. I love being a leadership consultant because it has challenged me to face my flaws, own up to my mistakes, and learn and keep going. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned on the road about overcoming failure:
Failure is not a reflection of you as a person.
I often believe the results of my work are a direct representation of me; but on the flip side, sometimes you can do everything right and it just isn’t enough. The results are not a reflection of you or your value. A better reflection is the work and effort you have put into something. I’m slowly learning to be prouder of my work ethic and the steps along the way than the end result. Laying a solid foundation for the future and building people up to be stronger leaders is actually my favorite part of this job, not the amount of money we raised or a number of people who attended an event; results will come later if you invest in the foundation.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes, but do learn from them.
This is absolutely easier said than done. Occasionally, I’ll be up late into the night because I can’t stop replaying a situation in my head that I could have handled differently. Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t change, but use that knowledge to prepare for the future. Forgive yourself and feel confident that you will get it right later on.
Have a way to de-stress.
This is different for everyone, but find what works for you to de-stress. You can’t move on until you have a strategy that helps you relax and reset; you’ll be a more productive and happy person if you take the time to take care of yourself. Maybe throughout the day you take a break to look at cute animal Instagrams or maybe you try yoga or meditation (my dad loves the Headspace app). Do some exercise, take a warm shower, treat yourself to some ice cream. You deserve it.
The biggest failure is actually not trying at all.
At the end of the day, your biggest regret will not be trying and failing. If you’ve tried and failed, then you’re one mistake closer to getting to where you want to be. If you never try at all, you’ll never get anywhere. Don’t let fear of failure or fear of the unknown keep you from pursuing your dreams. Even though we live in a world with everything at our fingertips and yearn for instant gratification, deep happiness will come from the long-term pursuit of goals that take time and a few stumbles along the way.
Celebrate your victories!
This is actually a crucial step in the process of achievement; if you do not celebrate your victories, you will burn out. This is the time to acknowledge your work and efforts and be proud of the times you failed, learned, and got back up again. This will bring closure to the process and help you internalize that failing is part of life, but it makes the victory that much sweeter.
I’d like to challenge you to try something new this month. Do something you’ve been wanting to do but have been scared to try. Embrace the potential of failure and, if you fail, then fail hard and learn from it. Is anything truly a failure if you’re giving it your all and growing? Even if you fail, there is something to gain from every attempt and opportunity that you decide to take, which I think always makes it a win.
Be bold and get out there,