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Failure – Don’t Make It Personal

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

The phrase “To err is human” has been around for ages and is a valid statement. Who among us hasn’t failed in the pursuit of a worthy vision or objective? Haven’t we all made poor or ill-advised decisions? None of us plan to fail or make poor decisions, yet we do; it’s a part of life.

Sometimes people fail and make it personal, resulting in being hard on themselves. At other times, they may feel it necessary to blame someone else or make it impersonal; they’ll point to some extenuating circumstances or an ‘unfortunate” turn of events to escape taking responsibility for their failure.

I view failure as a natural step in a “lifelong learning curve,” which leads to other promising opportunities if handled correctly. If I assign blame elsewhere, I’m forfeiting the opportunity to possibly develop a new skill or acquire the much-needed wisdom and experience I may need in the future.

Taking ownership of our failures and properly working through them is a sign of maturity; to continue assigning blame elsewhere is a sure sign of low self-awareness, which stunts our personal growth, thus negatively impacting our teams.

Some studies show that team members with lower self-awareness levels inhibit team progress, lowering productivity and frustrating other members by their inability to contribute insightful feedback.

Taking the High Road

“A successful failure is a failure that we respond to correctly: by finding the good, taking responsibility, moving on, and taking action.”- John C. Maxwell

Clinical psychotherapist and author Dr. Angelo Subida observes, “Failures are absolutely critical for our continuing self-development – if, that is, you’re willing to acknowledge them. Truth is, in most of our failures, losses, or mistakes, we’re forced to think about our ways and habits and the things we can change for the better.

Failures, if we’re “detached” enough from them, can help us develop greater flexibility, resilience, perseverance, humility, creativity, and faith.”(1)

Denis Waitleysays, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Three Thoughts on Handling Failure

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill

Nothing Personal, Just Business Your failure is your mistake, not your identity. Take a step back and detach yourself from the event until you can see it objectively. Think in terms of objectives and protocols. Personalizing failures will adversely impact your self-esteem and compromise your ability to think clearly.

You Need An Appraisal, Not An Approval You may fear failure and internalize it with shame by being preoccupied with what others might think or say about you. That may or may not exist; if it does and is negative, it’s a reflection on them, not you.

Revisit It, But Don’t Live There Becoming fixated on your failure only delays finding a positive solution. Wishing you could undo the mistake isn’t an option, nor is it a reality. You cannot go back, but you can move forward. The quicker you can approach your failure with a positive mindset, the better. Working and focusing on a solution prevents negativity from flooding your thoughts.

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

End Notes

(1) “Processing Failure Effectively” by Dr. Angelo Subida

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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