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Lessons, Mistakes and Failure

Jun 13, 2019 12:12:00 PM

Lessons, mistakes and failure are three experiences most everyone has gone through at different parts of their lives. Recently, at Growth Dynamics we have been hearing the word “failure” more and more from individuals we are working with.

This led Charlie and I to wonder why we are hearing the word failure more and the words lessons and mistakes less. One common thread in all the conversations where failure came up is the age/experience of those we were speaking too.

You are probably thinking- MILLENNIALS- and yes, you would be right for three out of the four people, but this is not a post about millennials. If you want to read an article about millennials and failure, I found this one a quick read.

This is a post self-limiting belief that every wrong step- lesson or mistake- automatically turns into a failure with some people? More importantly, how do we stop constantly telling ourselves and those around us we are failing, and allowing that results to define us as individuals?

We posed the question “What is the difference between mistakes and failures” to our online audiences (thanks to those who answered!) and the overwhelming response was that a mistake is something you can recover from, like a temporary hiccup, and a failure is something more permanent and to be avoided.

This leads us to considering what we believe a lesson is. Lessons are those experiences that have neither a good nor bad outcome but serve as an educational process. An example that recently happened to me, not business related, is when putting a handful of jellybeans in your mouth be sure you know if the dark jellybeans are a fruit flavor or a black licorice flavor. I don’t like black licorice at all. I was in for a surprise to find out the jellybeans we had did have the world’s worst jellybean flavor. 

All of this is important because most people don’t want to learn lessons, make mistakes or fail for one big reason- FEAR. We've spoken about FEAR before- check out this blog post to review. 

Fearing we aren’t good enough. Fearing we don’t have what others have. Fearing that one mistake will shape and impact the rest of our lives. Fearing we aren’t worth it.

Fear can impact almost every decision we make every day. What if fear wasn’t a factor in your life? How would you act differently or embrace anything challenge that came your way? How bold or “fearless” would you be?

Here are my suggestions about how you can work to risk making mistakes and learning lessons, without automatically thinking every wrong choice, decision or misstep is a failure.

  1. Stop thinking there is a “PERFECT” way to do something. gives the following definition for perfect: adjective: conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type. Excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement… Read that again. Notice anything interesting? There are objective words in that definition- conforming absolutely, ideal, complete. What is ideal, complete or practical to one person may not be the same for another. Being afraid of being imperfect will hold you back. Striving for perfection can also make everything you do feel like a failure instead of realizing you are learning lessons or simply making a mistake.
  2. Set goals and expectations for yourself, or if others set them for you, have a clear understanding of what success means for those goal and expectations. This one seems somewhat obvious, but we have found many people don’t set goals for all areas of their lives. Often the individuals we work with have goals set by their bosses, and that’s normal, but when we ask them about their personal lives they don’t have any goals Instead they just have wish lists. Be sure to make a SMART goal. You won’t know where you are making mistakes or learning lessons without a (SMART) goal.smart_goal_infographic_1300x680 If you are going to hit those work goals, shouldn’t you have something you are working for on the personal side?
  3. Enough of comparing what you have and are doing to those around you have or do. The social media scroll is too easy to do now. Open Facebook, Instragram and even LinkedIN and you can endlessly scroll. While scrolling it is easy to see what others are buying, living in, working for, raising or traveling to. Comparing what you have or don’t have to others won’t change your situation. Feeling like you are less than others from a social media highlight real isn’t good for you. Maybe even take a break from the scroll and see if you notice a difference in your attitude everyday life. Always worrying about something you don’t have will never let you appreciate it is what you do have. You will always feel like a “failure” if you live your life this way.
  4. Understand the difference between person and performance. It is extremely easy to intertwine who we think we are with what we do. What we do is not who we are. This can be a hard concept to learn, understand and honestly, believe in. Person vs. performance is one of the hardest lessons we teach and the most rewarding to see individuals grasp and apply in their lives. We often hear “this changed my life.” If you want to learn a little more check out our podcast on it.
  5. Accept making mistakes or failing happens. It is important to know how to handle lessons, mistakes and failures so when they happen in your life you know what to do. The one thing that can make any situation worse is to wallow in what you think is a failure or mistake, not forgive yourself and continually punish yourself for it. Accepting a lesson, mistake or failure, learning from it and changing your actions will what will help you move forward. Give yourself permission to try new things and sometimes not succeed at them. Simply knowing how to recover from a less-than desired result will keep you moving forward.

Have any other tricks that you have found that help you be kinder to yourself? We would love to hear how you are making sure to take care of yourself and rolling with all life throws at you.

Topics: Soft skills fear