Swallowed pride. Back to the drawing board. Didn’t work out this time. Your biggest failure can feel like a sore defeat. But if you know how to decipher what went terribly wrong, you have just flung open the door to what could go incredibly right.
Here are 9 questions to ask yourself in order to leverage your biggest failure into your biggest success yet:
1. What drove my decision making?
When you look back at what went wrong, you can see a series of decisions that led to your downfall. What drove those decisions? Were you operating out of negative feelings or positive ones? Many times when we are fearful, angry or stressed we make decisions based on immediate impulses that don’t keep the long game in mind.
Next time you have a big decision to make, notice whether you are veering toward an emotional state of anxiety or calmness. If it’s the former, wait to make any moves until you can come to the decision with less aggravation.
2. Who were you communicating with when you made important choices?
Who we let in to our mental sphere when we are working for a big win is important. We can’t just arbitrarily let voices into our heads that shouldn’t be there. That includes anyone who drains your energy and anyone who manipulates your energy.
The drainers are easy to spot because you feel zapped of mojo in their presence, but the manipulators are a little harder to detect. They build you up when perhaps you need honesty, they instill belief where maybe you need the bottom line, they want something out of you now so they don’t consider the big picture. Replace these energy suckers with people who have either been where you stand before, have only your best interest at heart or are removed enough from the situation to give you some clarity.
3. How did you approach the project, event or situation?
Hindsight is always crystal clear, isn’t it? There is a small voice that says, I had a bad feeling about that. The good news is, when you can look at your biggest failure and notice when that instinct creeped up in your head, it’s easier to recognize it the next time. The pain of missing out on the value of your own intuition is a powerful guide to accessing that intuition the next time around.
4. When did you let instinct drive you?
On the other side of that coin, when were you able to let instinct lead your way? Maybe the total outcome of the project failed but there were glimmers of clarity. What were those moments? Was it when you pivoted your stance on a company ideal, stepped down from a position or went ahead without getting clearance? Those moments of instinct, even when all the pieces didn’t add up to success, are wins. When you remember how it felt to be led by your gut, your gut gets bolder.
5. When did you know you failed?
The moment failure smacks you in the face. You don’t forget it. If you put it all on the line and it was truly the biggest disappointment, humiliation or failure in your life so far, you know exactly where you were and how you knew when it was over.
Maybe someone told you but you never saw it coming – in which case, you’ve just learned that you need to spend some time developing deeper consciousness so you can absorb the signals from the world around you. Or perhaps you saw it coming from a mile away and still didn’t act. In this case, you’ve learned that you are more aware than your lack of actions would admit and need to give yourself permission to proceed. Either way, understanding your relationship to your failure will be critical the next time you assess a high stakes situation.
6. Would it look different if you succeeded?
What if your failure wasn’t so big after all, in fact, what if it all went as planned? What would have been different? Would you have had a better team in place? Worked alone? Pivoted to a whole new concept? Resisted investing as much money? Consider how you would have succeeded. Only on the other side of failure can we truly see how we got from point A to point B. Maybe our greatest failure is just one tiny tweak away from being our biggest success. Can you pinpoint what that is and leverage it? If you can, you’ve got something great on your hands.
7. Where would you be now if you had succeeded?
Ask yourself what success looked like to you. Was it a status, a financial gain, a partnership? At the base of any of those tangible ideas of success is a feeling you hope to attain. For most people, that feeling is happiness – but get even more specific. Was it comfort, joy, affirmation, pride, excitement? Those feelings can be attained from a host of outcomes. Sometimes success only alludes us because we are pre-packaging our idea of those feelings instead of really chasing what will cultivate that feeling in us.
Define how success would have made you feel and then look for the areas of your life where that feeling comes up again and again. There is an easiness in those places. Go grow there.
8. What was the best thing to come out of your failure?
What was a happy accident? What was the one thing you would have never known if you had never gone after something huge and failed? What surprised you? Use these nuggets of hard-won wisdom to calibrate for the next time. Use those happy, surprising accidents as guideposts for what you won’t give up this time around. Your failures are valuable, so don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
9. What will you never do again?
Draw that line in the sand. Say, never again. I will not make that mistake twice. This should feel good. This is authenticity and strength. Knowing where your limits are gets you closer to your center, grounds you in your instinct and makes the world move faster and smoother around you. Go ahead, say it: never again. And see the possibilities open up for next time.