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Embracing Failure as Your Greatest Teacher

Have you ever noticed when you’re learning something new that you want to be better than what you are?

I think this is a natural human response because if we’re better, then we can feel good about ourselves, so we strive to improve.

Problems arise when we forget that we are beginners, and we start judging ourselves based on other people’s performance (usually successful people that have been doing it for a while).

I’ve noticed this come up a few times for me over the past months.

I’m in a teaching environment where I’m encouraged to try new things knowing that we’re supposed to fail. But when I fail, my human brain forgets that it’s a learning environment, and that’s inevitable and part of the process. Instead, it wants to create an inquisition about what went wrong and tell me why it’s my fault.

I understand why it happens because my brain wants to be in the place where I succeed so I can feel good. It forgets that I can feel good about my failure by just deciding that failing means that it didn’t turn out the way I anticipated. It can feel good because I stop comparing myself to other more masterful coaches who have been failing a lot longer than me.

So, the conundrum exists. How can we strive for improvement knowing that, more than likely, sometimes we will fail? Try building some failure resilience. It’s so much easier to fail when it doesn’t look like you are curled up in a ball, berating yourself.

Failure resilience comes from exercising and growing your capacity for failure, so how can you make it easier for yourself to fail? A great place to start is getting clear on how you define failure and then deciding ahead of time what you are going to make it mean about you when you do fail.

I recently had an experience in my studies where I think I had an epic failure, and because I’m human, I spent some time in the land of self-judgement only to remember that this was how I was meant to improve and grow. All that really happened was it didn’t turn out the way I expected, and with that belief, I could start exploring what went wrong with curiosity instead of ridicule.

So, what are you going to make your next failure mean? Decide now and notice the difference.

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