Making Friends with Failure
We need to talk about failure.
Or rather, we need to talk differently about failure.
Failure is something we’re conditioned to dread and not really talk about … and yet failing is an inevitable part of life.
As long as we dream and strive and try to move forwards in our lives we are sometimes going to fail.
So, it makes sense to me to try to reframe failure in a more positive way – as a stepping stone rather than a dead end.
A while ago, I wrote an article on the subject for The Guardian. You can read it here.
Off the back of that article, I was invited to give a talk on overcoming failure at the BBC.
As part of that talk I shared the following 6 steps for dealing with failure positively.
If you’ve recently failed at something – personally, professionally or creatively – I hope they help you move forward…
When failure happens, allow yourself to feel sad. Don’t try and block your negative feelings. Acknowledge what happened and that you feel like crap. Throw yourself a pity party.
But know when to leave the pity party. Don’t be that annoying guest who stays too long. Don’t wallow in your sadness or anger or fear. Don’t let your failure come to define you. Make the conscious decision to let go and move on.
Let go and move on by turning your so-called failure into a positive. Turn it into a positive by asking yourself the question: What is the lesson here? Or, How is what has happened also for the good?
Another great question to help you move on is: What does this failure now leave me free to achieve? For example, when I was dropped by my first publisher – a devastating failure for me at the time – it left me free to take my career in a brand new direction and start writing for young adults. This in turn, led to some of my greatest career successes.
Let go of the old failure and refocus your attention on a fresh new dream. See this dream as a light at the end of the tunnel, something to aim for to lead you out of the dark.
When you’re still reeling from a failure it can be hard to start working towards a new dream. Counteract any inner doubts or fears by adopting a one-a-day strategy. Set yourself the simple task of doing one thing a day towards achieving your new dream, no matter how small. The one-a-day way will build momentum and soon lead you to fresh adventure.
It’s not failure that plots our path in life but how we react when things go wrong.
Don’t let your failures imprison or define you, let them educate you and motivate you to move on.