Failure is an inevitable aspect of our existence, but ironically, failure is also essential for success. The most successful individuals in the world didn’t get to the top of the mountain by taking an airplane; they climbed up the mountain, slipped and fell, and sustained injuries along the way. What separates these individuals from the rest is how they respond to failure.
People tend to commit to one of two mindsets: growth or fixed. People with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. In other words, a growth mindset enhances one’s ability to learn from every situation, whether or not the situation is successful.
People with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, believe their basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. People who think this way are more likely to choose less challenging tasks, rather than taking risks and dealing with the potential of failure.
An effective way to learn from failure is by following a four-step reflection process: Start with the basic facts of what happened. Look back at the situation and see how it played out. Think about what went well and/or what went wrong. Acknowledge successes and failures and consider specific areas for improvement. Think about what you’ve learned from the situation. Personal growth begins to manifest now. Think about what to do the next time you are in a similar situation. Active reflection conditions your subconscious, so when you are placed in a similar situation, your response is closer to your ideal.
I recently injured my wrist during a workout. Certain exercises are now painful, and not too long ago, I reached the point of extreme frustration. As I went to perform a simple triceps exercise, I dropped the barbell because my wrist could not support the weight, which wasn’t even that much! I was frustrated because I knew I had to step away from weight training until my wrist fully healed. This was devastating. The gym is my sanctuary where I release stress and frustration, not gain it.
I knew an extended break from weight training would heal my wrist, but also increase the likelihood of inactivity. As I stood there, focusing on what I couldn’t do because of my wrist, I reflected on the situation and how I was feeling. I realized I was focusing on the wrong thing! Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I started thinking about what I could do.
In that moment of reflection, I noted that my wrist hurt when I did certain movements, but not others. From then on, if an exercise was too painful, I switched to an exercise that worked the same muscle but minimized the pain.
My confidence was restored, and my frustration level quickly decreased. Giving up the gym for an extended period of time would have left me feeling lost. Had I not reflected on the failure I experienced, I may have left the gym for who knows how long.
Failure doesn’t have to define you. Instead, let failure be the key to your success. Use failure as a motivating tool to become stronger and smarter. Whether you are in the business, sport, or academic world, don’t be afraid to fail! Challenge yourself and consciously choose to learn from each and every situation.