Growth Mindset: Dealing with Failure…Easier said then Done.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. Nelson Mandela

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”Winston Churchill

Reflection: From my experience and observations resilient people have the unique ability to look at failures in a different way than people who fail  and let it stop them. Resilient people do some of the following: frame the failure as a learning experience; use reflection to look at the situation as an opportunity or a problem to be solved. You can hear them say, “What is the lesson I need to learn from this? What are other alternatives for solving this problem?  What is this experience trying to teach me? How can I move forward? What do I need to learn,so I don’t make the same mistake next time?

Re-focusing and snapping back from failures is one of the most difficult tasks to learn when trying to live by the growth mindset principles. It is incredibly difficult to hear that your hard work and effort has not resulted in success. Yet on the other hand missing your target, especially when you have done what you thought was your best effort, can be the beginning for learning and finding new opportunities and ways of doing things. Think about Thomas Edison who it is said failed failed 5,000 to 10,000 times before succeeding in inventing the first incandescent light that would last not the light bulb. Thomas Edison must have been thinking about his many failed attempts at producing an effective light bulb when he said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Thomas Edison two years and many failed attempts before he would discover success. It is has been said that he used over 6,000 fibers to light his bulb. One reporter asked Edison, “How many times are you going to fail at creating the light bulb?” Mr. Edison replied, “Son, I haven’t failed! I’ve simply discovered another way not to invent the light bulb!”
Experiencing failure and listening to others feedback about your “flop” can sometimes feel like a personal attack. Self-doubt creeps in. Confidence wanes. Positive energy is depleted. Your internal self critic shouts things like “You are so stupid and such a loser”, ” It’s not my fault.” So what can you do to over-ride all this negativity and keep moving forward. First take a deep breath, then reframe the failure into an opportunity for learning. Listen with an open mind and less defensiveness to the feedback you are getting. Reflect on suggestions and feedback and choose to work on the feedback that helps you develop into a more self-aware and competent person. Then pick yourself up from the hurt feelings, disappointment and blow to the ego and do what you need to doby figuring out what the life lesson is from this experience. This resilient approach will take courage, optimism and planning.

Remember resilient is defined: “as being able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.” And, “able to carry on and grow after failing or being pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, stressed, hurt etc. There are no epic failures only lessons to be learned.

So the question becomes how does a person accept and recover from failures or setbacks?

Here is a model from Jane Peskett of the MIndset blog that you might find helpful in processing the emotions and disappointment of failures in more constructive and positive way. Here is Resilient/Feedback Window for your use and experimentation the next time you have a failure.PeskettFailure2015

First, be relentless in your quest for feedback. Understand that feedback is providing you with information about what your audience wants, and it is not a criticism of you as a person. Listen to the feedback, and ask probing questions. Make a plan to improve based on the feedback, ask others to review your plan, and hold yourself accountable for making those changes. Resist the urge to defend yourself or make excuses, even if you think you are right. It is difficult to hold back when you feel you have more information to offer, but sometimes, what you don’t say is more revealing about your character than what you do.

Second, focus on what you can control. While you can’t control what other people think, you can control your own reaction. Do you accept failure with grace and poise, or get frustrated and anger? Or do you try to learn from the mistake and move forward. Maybe this a good time to use the De-Afulizing tool, or count to 20 like your dad and mom taught you or simply go for a walk.

Next, re-frame the failure as an opportunity for learning and growing. Sure, it’s lousy to fail at something that is important to you. No one wants to get the “dunce cap” at the awards banquet, but reframing and looking for the lesson learned helps you let it go and move on.

Last, ask yourself – what is the life lesson I can take away from this situation? How can I use this as a leverage point to grow, improve, and evolve as a self-directing learning machine? Remember you always have the choice to see it as a devastating event that you can use as an excuse for not growing and getting “stuck” in life; or as an opportunity  or life lesson that stimulates you  to grow, progress, and learn from mistakes. There will certainly be more failures in all our futures, but knowing and accepting them as use part of life keeps you motivated to keep taking risks and reaching toward your full potential as a fallible human being.

Self-Coaching Challenge:

Tough questions to ask yourself after a failure: What were the root causes for the failure? How did I react to feedback about the failed project? How could I have handled the situation better or differently? What are some new strategies and tactics can I learn to rebound from failures, and emerge stronger to handle similar interactions or situations in the future? Develop a thirty day development action plan to become more resilient.


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