• Janis Cohen

How Do You Fail?

Whether it’s on a coffee mug, tee-shirt or in an advertisement, we are constantly being reminded, either metaphorically or literally, about how to measure the value of our lives.

Metaphors that ask a person to take stock of “how full one’s cup is” and “the quality, not the quantity” of one’s relationships, are just two of the typical markers that we are encouraged to use. Added to that list might be how humble and kind one is to others, how much one has positively contributed to the greater good of humanity and how deeply one has loved another.

While these typical indicators reflect the positive side of a quality life, one important, and often neglected, measure of how well one has lived his life is failure; specifically, how well someone fails.

For many people, life is measured not by the good things but by how much they’ve lost, how much they’ve struggled and how many mistakes they’ve made.

If you are someone who measures your life based on losses, screw-ups and lack, would you be willing to consider a different perspective for a moment? Is it possible for you to view failure as something other than a painful, pervasive and personal experience?

Would you be willing to see failure as beneficial?

The feeling of failure, as with any other feeling, can be interpreted along a spectrum; from catastrophic to minor. If you are someone who aligns with your mistakes on the more severe end of the spectrum, you might tend to view failure as the reinforcement of your belief that you are inherently broken or chronically unlucky. Failure then, to you, is a consistent indicator of your inadequacy.

Failure is a part of human existence; it’s how we learn and grow. Mistakes, regardless of how many you have made, don’t come about to punish you. Rather, they have purpose and meaning.

To be able to notice the functionality of failure in your life, you must get out of your head and get into your heart. But, how do you do that? How do you get out of your own way long enough to change your perspective about failure’s intention in your life?

A distinguishing factor for the person who experiences numerous and repeated failures, is that the person “fails” to learn from their mistakes. And, we all know that patterns are developed from doing the same thing over and over and over again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result. If you want to change how failure impacts you, then change how you experience it. But, how do you do that?

What needs to happen in order for you to change how you experience failure?

Consider the polarizing conditions that show up in your life. You can’t learn what to do differently if you don’t identify what didn’t work in the first place. You can’t appreciate the positives in life without experiencing the negatives. And, you certainly can’t begin to make better decisions without being subjected to the heartache that accompanies poor ones.

To change how you experience failure you must change two things: how you perceive it and how you use it.

How well you fail is the primary indicator of how well you succeed.

Failure is the biggest roadblock to success. Want to experience success? Change what failure means to you. Instead of believing that failure represents who you are as a person, shift your focus and see it as a tool that you can use to get the results you want.

Henry Ford said, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” It is as simple as that. Attitude is everything.

Look back at your life when you believed you failed. How quickly did you recover? How quickly did you get back up after you took the hit? What actions did you take after you learned the purpose of that failure? Who are you now after learning how to do things differently?

Strategies are everywhere and for everything: how to lose weight, make more money or find the love of your life. There is a strategy for failing well, too! Here are three “fail-proof” steps you can follow to fail well.

Step One: View failure as something you have done versus who you are. People who struggle to fail well tend to blame failure on something inside of themselves; inadequacy, stupidity or some other personal quality that has influenced their lives over which they believe they have no control.

Step Two: Be optimistic about your failure. When you see failure as a building block to your future success rather than a pervasive, permanent and personal experience, then you can use anything that happens in your life as for you rather than to you.

Step Three: Practice persistence. Persistence is optimism in action. It is that part of you that doesn’t give up when times get tough and it is the guiding force that pushes you through the most challenging moments; the time when others quit.

Failing well is the key to achieving success and to massively improving the quality of your life. Change what failure means to you and notice the other changes that happen within and around you.

Now, I ask you, how well will you choose to fail from now on?


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