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How To Leverage Your Biggest Failure Into Your Biggest Success

How To Leverage Your Biggest Failure Into Your Biggest Success

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More by this author

Courtney Romano

Courtney is an actress, NASM-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and wellness coach.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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