Embracing failure

Embrace failure. This is the catchy message we are bombarded with through business books, articles and social media outlets. What does it actually mean, though?

Failure can mean different things to different people, as everyone has their own idea of what success and failure look like. The dictionary, however, offers 2 definitions of failure, as either “the nonperformance of an assigned or expected action” or “a falling short of one’s goals”. For the purpose of this post, we will be using the second definition.

Failure can come in many different forms, and when it does we need to take time to reflect upon it and put it into perspective. Failure itself can come in the guise of bad decision making, an inability to change or adapt to circumstances, poor planning or poor execution and everything in between.

The danger with failure is that it has the potential to lead to further failure, unless we learn from it and use it to inform the changes which will lead to future success. Failure itself has such a negative connotation that many choose to hide theirs rather than take ownership of them and embrace them. This is perpetuated by the misconception that in embracing failure you are admitting defeat or lowering your standards. This is very damaging to your progress , as when you adopt this thinking, you become oblivious to the fact that sometimes you need to go back to the beginning and start again, armed with new knowledge gained from this failure.

Failure makes us feel vulnerable, but when we accept that everyone fails and embrace it as a fact of life, it can benefit us in many ways, the following just a few of them;

  • Learning. Most of what we learn is through trial and error, with some of our best lessons being learned as a result of failure.
  • Inspiration. When we reflect on our failures, they can serve to inspire and motivate us to try again, armed with what we have learned from the experience.
  • Humility. Failure reminds us that we are not infallible, but human.
  • Lower aversion to risk. Having failed, learned from the experience and moved forward, you become less fearful of taking calculated risks.

When failure is embraced properly, you overcome the associated fear and disappointment. In doing this, you move from a negative mindset to a positive one in which failure is regarded as a learning experience.

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