Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek said this about achieving success in life:
“You won’t believe what you can accomplish by attempting the impossible with the courage to repeatedly fail better.”
What does it mean to you to “fail better?” Better than someone else? Fail/fare a little better each time you try? Maybe it means to fail spectacularly! Go big or go home! Or how about failing but getting better along the way—getting better through failure—and learning something from the experience? I believe that is the key: to allow failure to be a springboard from which we succeed and grow.
How we handle failure is more important than how we handle success. We are all going to experience failure at some point in our lives, and our attitude about that failure is what determines whether we bounce back or fall hard.
1. Decide you want to bounce back. The power of intention is amazing, and the simple, conscious decision or desire to bounce back will make it far easier for you to do so. When you decide you want to do something and spend a little time visualizing, parts of your subconscious, intuition and conscious mind all start working together towards that goal—it’s the power of positive thinking at work. Even if you have no idea how you will do it, why not start by telling yourself that you’d like to bounce back from this failure? How you speak to yourself is so important.
2. When you fail at something, it isn’t about you. Well, in a way it is, but it isn’t about your core personality, humanity or your soul. It’s much harder to bounce back when you take failure to heart too much and make it about your value as a person. Your importance to those who love you does not change when you fail; your potential to make a difference in the lives of those around you does not change. If anything, your potential increases with every failure experience you have, since the most painful events in life often give us the most valuable experiences and dramatic growth. Experiencing failure makes us more compassionate, and that also increases our capacity to make a difference in the world.
How can you make sure you don’t take failure too personally? Remind yourself—literally, tell yourself—that deep down, you are still you. The failure was just a thing that happened, like a hundred other things that have happened to you. Maybe you did some things that didn’t work out, but if you compared notes with every ridiculously successful person out there, you’d find they all have similar stories to tell. Since you survived, you can still thrive!
3. Still breathing? Keep at it. Often when we are rushed or stressed, or have been through a trauma, we breathe shallowly and unevenly, which hampers our thinking and increases our anxiety. Stop from time to time and check your body to see how deeply you are breathing, and take a deep breath to reduce your stress levels and reset your brain waves. Some practices like yoga focus on breathing, but even without the exercise element, simply taking deeper, conscious breaths will improve your clarity and help you to learn important lessons from the failure.
4. Reframe and start from where you are. In the autumn of 1972, an unusually early frost hit the vineyards of Peachland, British Columbia, Canada. It was devastating: grapes still clinging to their vines froze into little globes of ice. The year’s grape harvest would have been a complete failure, except that the vineyard’s owner, Walter Hainle, decided to make wine anyway. He knew of a tradition in Germany of making sweet dessert wines from frozen grapes, and although he originally planned on keeping the wine for personal use, he decided to sell it six years later. The wine was one-of-a-kind, which means it commanded a premium price. Thus, a lucrative, ridiculously successful new wine market was born— ice wine. It worked with the Canadian climate rather than against it, and it would have never been discovered if it hadn’t been for what seemed like a failure at the time.
The ability to reframe a life event is directly related to our ability to bounce back. Practice on small, easy things, and decide that you won’t:
- play the role of victim in this failure
- let self-degrading thoughts take hold
- let anger control you
Instead, try to see the situation from another perspective—the essence of reframing—and see what you might be able to learn from it all.
So, when you fail, begin from exactly where you are, look for opportunities, take a deep breath and get back in the game, knowing that you are learning valuable lessons along the way, having great new experiences and living life to the fullest! Vive la failure!
Featured photo credit: Clumsy business man falling down stairs via Shutterstock