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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success

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Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success

A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how he felt failing one thousand times. He replied:

“I didn’t fail one thousand times. The light bulb is an invention that requires 1000 steps. I have learned 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.”

It is the learning when you fail that deserves celebration, not the failure itself. Failure without lessons learned is a failure. When you fail forward, you learn in the process of failure, which means you’ll inevitably get closer to succeeding.

Failure is not a joke; it can be expensive, embarrassing, or heart-breaking. However, the truth is that people who shun failure deny themselves the opportunity to reinvent and innovate.

We all fail at some point in life, but we get to choose whether we stay down or fail forward.

Can Setbacks Fuel Future Success?

Failure can be a great driver of success. Here are some of the main reasons why.

Failure Teaches Better Than the Best Teacher

Every failure comes life lessons that you may never learn from the world’s best university. Failure helps you prioritize what you normally ignore[1].

Perhaps you have been ignoring some bad habits because they are not big red flags yet. Failure will enable you to confront your fears and tendencies in a way you wouldn’t have if you had not failed.

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If you have not failed before, you definitely missed out on opportunities to reflect and figure out your sources of motivation. Check out the video below to learn just why failure is the key to success:

Failure Makes You Strong and Wise

The wisdom and strength that you exude when you share what life has taught are what I’m talking about here. The lessons become a significant part of your journey and success.

Consider actors preparing for a movie. Sometimes, you miss the line while acting the script, and you rehearse. Every rehearsal is an opportunity to become better. Likewise, each setback is an opportunity to develop the courage to fail forward.

Failure Makes Your Story Compelling

Your obstacles produce the most incredible story ever told—stories of how you surmount your challenges and achieve the success you desire. These kinds of stories have impact and give others hope.

It would be uninteresting to reflect at the end of life and realize you have never failed. It would most likely depict a life of mediocrity and complacency. Without failure, you cannot tell compelling stories or record noteworthy feats.

Failure Makes You Fit to Pursue Your Goals

Failing forward despite setbacks means you believe you can. It means you can move on despite obstacles.

This resolution helps you always stay fit to pursue your goals. The judgment and opinions of others can no longer sway you. You are more resolute and committed to seeing your goals come to reality.

9 Tips to Fail Forward

You can leverage failure to start learning and growing in any aspect of your life. Here are 9 proven tips to fail forward.

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1. Determine the Possible Challenges

Begin by determining the exact stumbling blocks between you and your success. When you think about your success, negativity becomes a challenge that can assault your mind.

Go ahead and list all the factors that could cause you to fail. Write them in your journal. When you are done, you have a list of potential limitations to your success.

Now, take them one after the other and reflect on the best ways to overcome them. Activate your action plan, and attack each limitation until you clear all and achieve your next level of success.

2. Develop a Strategy

When you keep aiming at a goal, and you keep failing, refuse self-denigrating thoughts. Instead, assess and change your strategy. You don’t have to change your goals as long as they are SMART goals; you only need to change your approach.

Figure out what you’re missing and design a system to avoid future mistakes. Find an accountability partner or a mentor to share input and ideas on your strategy. Commit at least 10-15 hours refining your strategy, and keep positive people around you to help you avoid negativity.

3. Educate Yourself

It would be great if you could research about what lies ahead of you. Find out if someone has passed through it and learn from their experience.

Thomas Edison made 1000 attempts; how did he manage to fail forward? What can I do to overcome anxiety and depression that comes with failing?

Equip yourself to surmount challenges when they arise.

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4. Seek Advice

Isolation is a killer of success. Don’t isolate yourself from people that can help you. Talk to someone about the circumstances.

If you had the opportunity to meet Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison, what questions would you ask? Perhaps, how Lincoln led the nation through one of the most significant moments in the history of the United States despite his inner troubles. How Edison failed forward until his dream of a light bulb for humanity came to reality.

Ask your contacts to point out limitations and the mistakes they made. Leverage this experience to shorten your learning curves. You can also enroll in courses designed to help you overcome obstacles.

5. Reflect on Your Why

Someone once said if your why is big enough, the how will show up. Take some minutes to write and reflect on why you want to overcome obstacles and achieve your next level of success. Think yourself into the new feeling, esteem, and lifestyle you desire. This is called visualization, and it can be a great tool to help you fail forward.

Fail forward through self reflection

    You can learn more about finding your why in this article.

    6. Live Life With No Regrets

    Value each day and refuse to live your life by default, but by design[2]. Manage your time effectively, and live every second of your life deliberately.

    Pursue your goals, take calculated risks, and know that every risk comes with failure. Embrace each chance you have to fail forward because it will mean one less regret you have later.

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    7. Celebrate Your Small Wins

    Every achievement takes you one step closer to your success. While waiting for the final day, take out time to celebrate those small victories.

    Perhaps you have completed your weekly to-do list; you can pamper yourself. You may visit the cinema, attend a yoga class, or visit the spa. That way, you will generate momentum to surmount the next obstacles.

    8. Learn From Each Day

    Every day is an opportunity to show up in the school of life. Show up to learn from life’s instructor—failure. Open yourself to events and experiences as they present you the opportunity to learn.

    Your greatest teacher in life is failure. The more you fail forward, the less you become afraid of failing as you would have transcended your setbacks and emerged stronger.

    9. Accept Reality

    When you fail, admit it, and accept that life must continue. That’s what failing forward is all about.

    Acceptance helps you to make progress. It helps you to gain liberty so you can figure out the next step to take.

    The Bottom Line

    Above all, maintain a positive attitude. Your attitude is fundamental to your outcome. Always preempt obstacles, and don’t let life happen to you without taking the time to fail forward.

    Don’t stop, and celebrate every little achievement.

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    More Tips on How to Fail Forward

    Featured photo credit: Josh Marshall via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Published on October 14, 2021

    How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

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    How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

    Do you ever worry about being exposed as a “fraud?” You’re not alone. It’s actually quite common for people to feel like imposters. In fact, approximately 70 percent of people admit to having experienced impostor syndrome[1] at some point in their lives — a Twitter poll found that 87 percent of people have experienced this.[2] Even successful and famous people like Tom Hanks, Howard Schultz, and Natalie Portman suffer from imposter syndrome.

    But, what exactly is imposter syndrome. And, more importantly, how can you silence it?

    Originally coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP, and Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., the term “impostor syndrome” describes symptoms that include being unable to internalize accomplishments and being afraid of being exposed as a fraud.

    The individual may also be plagued by chronic self-doubt and believe that they’re unqualified for success despite evidence to the contrary. Inadequacies, fears of failure, and disbelief that success is a matter of luck or timing are also common.

    If you don’t address this phenomenon, feeling like an impostor can prevent you from achieving ambitious goals. Moreover, those experiencing these feelings tend to over-prepare or procrastinate — which obviously hinders productivity and reaching goals. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, imposter syndrome prevents you from pursuing new challenges and opportunities.

    Do you feel like you’re suffering from impostor syndrome? If so, don’t beat yourself up. After all, there are effective ways to overcome these feelings in a healthy and proactive way.

    1. Don’t Hide It.

    “Firstly, acknowledge it,” advises Claudine Robson,[3] the Intentional Coach. “You give strength to imposter syndrome by letting it continue to peck away at your confidence unchecked.” It can only be banished if you acknowledge it as soon as possible and break the silence.

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    “Then you need to separate your feelings from facts,” Robson adds. “One thing imposter syndrome does very effectively is to mix up your perceptions of reality.”

    If you can, take a step back and look at the situation objectively. “Recognize when you should — and when you should not — feel fraudulent,” she says. Appreciate and acknowledge the task, intellect, and insight that have led to your success.

    You might even be able to take action by recognizing that the reason you feel fraudulent is that you’re new to a task. “That gives you a path forward; learning is growth, don’t deny yourself that.”

    2. Implement the STOP Technique

    In her book Cognitive Enlightenment, Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., outlines a technique to overcome imposter syndrome using what she calls the STOP technique.

    “STOP is an acronym for ‘silence the oppressive player,” Fouts explains in Forbes.[4] “You need to eradicate this tape that is playing 24/7, whether you are conscious of it or not. It plays loudest when we are tired, hungry, or feeling defeated.”

    Steps to implementing the STOP technique and rewiring your brain are as follows:

    To replace the tape of not good enough, you need a “launch sentence.” “I’m more than good enough” would is an example of a solid launch statement.

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    Put your launch sentence in prominent locations, such as your car’s dashboard or computer. How come? The reason is that as the tape plays, you won’t be able to remember your launch statement.

    Continue to say “stop” until you recall your launch sentence, says Fouts.

    Put your launch sentence into your own words and pontificate.

    While going about your daily tasks, like while driving or exercising, practice your launch sentence so you can recall it when you need it in the future.

    “I am told this sounds simple and it does,” she adds. However, this technique is challenging when your negative tape is playing. You will not want to replace the tape every day while your brain is rewiring itself. “It is these moments you can’t give up.”

    3. Distinguish Humility and Fear

    When it comes to hard work and accomplishments, there’s humility, and then there’s fear. In other words, having a high level of competence can lead one to discount its value occasionally. However, as Carl Richards wrote in an article for the New York Times,[5] “After spending a lot of time fine-tuning our ability, isn’t it sort of the point for our skill to look and feel natural?”

    The problem is that we feel unworthy from time to time. But, as Seth Godin explained in a blog post,[6] “When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw.”

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    Feeling worthy without feeling entitled is possible. And, finding the right balance between them is critical for overcoming impostor syndrome. “Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory,” Godin continues. “We don’t have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open, or humble.”

    4. Keep a “Brag Sheet”

    When you were sending out college applications, did you build yourself a “brag sheet?” If not, here’s a clean description from Shawna Newman,[7] “A brag sheet is very similar to a student resume – it highlights your accomplishments, key experiences, leadership skills, and employment throughout your secondary education.” In short, “it’s a quick reference guide with all the details and achievements for someone trying to get to know you better.”

    While it may be awkward at first, you can apply the same concept when coping with imposter syndrome. Just compose a list of your accomplishments, activities, skills. That’s it. Just remember Godin’s advice and also be humble and gracious.

    As an added perk, besides being an effective way to talk myself up, I’ve also found that this has helped me stop comparing myself to others. Instead of harping about other people’s milestones, I’m honing in on what I’ve done.

    5. Celebrate Wins, Period

    Speaking of accomplishments, they shouldn’t be categorized as small or big. After all, you feel as if you don’t belong when you have imposter syndrome. So, the more you celebrate your wins, the more confident you’ll become.

    Furthermore, accept compliments without qualifying them and practice listening to praise every day. Finally, become kinder to yourself by saying at least one kind thing to yourself daily. And, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

    6. Assemble a Legion of Superheroes

    “You know how corporations have a board of directors to — in theory — make them stronger, maintain checks and balances, leverage resources, and help advance the organization’s vision?” asks inspirational speaker, speaking coach, and creative consultant Tania Katan.[8] “Why not assemble your own board of directors to leverage resources to help make your career stronger, keep you in check and balanced, and advance your vision?”

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    “My friend Alison Wade, president of conferences, training, and consulting at Techwell, calls her personal board of directors her “front-row” — those are the people she invites to sit spitting distance from the stage, cheer her on, challenge her, and review her performance,” Katan writes.

    As for Katan, she calls hers a “legion of superheroes.” The reason? “I dig the idea of joining forces to do good in the corporate galaxy.”

    It’s important to have a diverse group of individuals who will defend you. Ideally, they should be varied in all dimensions, such as cultural background, way of thinking, and skills.

    Katan recommends that you meet together frequently, whether if that’s once a week or every quarter. “Share your experiences, fears, creative ideas, aspirations,” she adds. “Celebrate each other’s accomplishments.” You also need to both support and challenge each other. “Discover what you are capable of doing when you combine your powers.”

    7. Visualize Success

    Follow the example of a professional athlete by imagining yourself crushing that presentation or project. You’ll enjoy the relief from performance-related stress. And, more importantly, it can help you avoid focusing on the worst-case scenario.

    Final Words of Advice

    While there’s no single formula to cure imposter syndrome, the tips listed above are a start. After all, your success depends on your ability to fight the negative effects of it. For example, feeling unworthy over time can lead to crippling anxiety and depression if left untreated.

    If you’ve tried the above, then make sure that you speak to someone about what you’re experiencing, whether it’s a mentor, peer group, or licensed professional. And, above all else, there’s a place at the table for everyone — no matter what your inner voice is telling you.

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    How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

    Featured photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider via unsplash.com

    Reference

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