How to Begin Again After a Failure
No one likes to talk about their failures. Failures hurt. They dredge up all our fears and insecurities. We’d like to forget our failures or sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened. But what if I told you that if you cancel your failures, then you will never be successful?
Failures are hard, yes, but they are a necessary step on the path to success. When we learn to accept failure as normal and an important part of the success equation, then we liberate ourselves from all of the negative thinking that would lead us to give up on a goal or dream.
Failure and Success are two sides to the same coin. You want success? Then learn how to fail.
I know this talk of failure doesn’t sit too well with those of us who believe in the law of attraction, in seeing the glass half full, or in stating there is no such thing as failure. I get all of that, and I’m sure I’ve even recited some of those mantras before. However, to keep it real, we know deep down that there have been times in our lives when we didn’t meet expectations, we made mistakes, and we failed. To deny the existence of failure is to prolong its detrimental effect on our lives. Therefore, instead of pretending we didn’t fail, how about we acknowledge that we did fail, and we are better because of it.
Michael Jordan’s famous quote on success as a product of failure is one to remember. He said:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Jordan is one of the world’s all-time best basketball players, if not the best. He understood that his success was bound up in his failures and in his willingness to keep working, to keep believing in himself, and to keep setting his sights on new goals that would take him to his next level of greatness.
Likewise, Henry Ford, established four principles that served as the basis for his work. The first principle led to this famous quote:
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
The principle from which the quote was taken is even more insightful:
- An absence of fear of the future or of veneration for the past. One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail. What is past is useful only as it suggests ways and means for progress. (My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, 1922)
Let’s unpack this principle.
One who fears failure, limits his activities. If we are afraid to fail, that fear will prevent us from taking on any goal or dream where there is a likelihood of failure. That means we will remain in our comfort zones, and we all know there is no growth in the comfort zone. We will stagnate and never reach our full potential.
There is no disgrace in honest failure. If we can honestly say that we’ve done our best, then we have no reason to be ashamed.
There is disgrace in fearing to fail. This is almost like saying, there is disgrace in fearing to act. When we let fear of failure hold us back from even attempting our goals and dreams, that is unfortunate. And that is where shame and regret live.
I’ve failed, and I will fail again. Undoubtedly, you’ve also failed. Our failures indicate our willingness to try something that’s beyond our current knowledge and skills.
When you fail, follow these 6 steps to regain your confidence and begin again:
- Acknowledge your feelings. Failure sucks. It doesn’t feel good. Acknowledge the grief, disappointment, or feelings of inadequacy that can lead to a lack of motivation and hesitation to try again. It’s hard to work past emotions that we won’t even acknowledge.
- Separate your personal identity from the failure. You may have failed at something, but that does not mean you are a failure. In an interview, Marie Forleo said, “Failure is an event, not a personal characteristic. People can’t be failures.”
- Recognize and celebrate your honest effort. So often, we only celebrate the achievement of the milestone or the consummate goal. Instead, try praising and rewarding your honest effort and process over the outcome. Chances are, if you’re doing your best and celebrating your effort, you will gain momentum and increase your chances of succeeding to the end goal.
- Distill the lessons learned. One of the main reasons why failure is necessary for success is because there is so much to learn through failures. We can begin again more intelligently. Pause to ask, “What have I learned by failing that is useful to me now?”
- Surround yourself with supportive people. Having people in your corner who will be there to encourage you, provide insight and wisdom, or simply to listen, can help you navigate through the failure more quickly and build forward momentum.
- Begin again. If the failure is going to lead to success, then you have to pick yourself up and continue on. Angela Duckworth, researcher and author of the bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, said: “To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.”
Failure is a part of life. It’s time we remove the stigma and normalize failure as critical to our success. To learn more, you can listen to my latest podcast, Begin Again: How to Live Your Aha! Life Now, and a popular previous episode, Overcoming the Fear of Failure with Giovanni Dientsmann.
I invite you to visit my website, Your Aha! Life. You’ll find all of my blog articles and you can also sign up to receive my monthly newsletter. You’ll gain access to my podcast, a list of resources, and you’ll learn more about joining my private Facebook group, The Aha! Community. There’s so much to discover and to support you in living Your Aha! Life.