When Failing to Win Works Out
By Colette A. Harris
Nobody likes to lose. Whether you’re ten, twenty, or eighty years old nobody likes to feel like they gave it their all and came up short. But is “losing” all that bad? In the end, can we sometimes learn more from a perceived loss that a win?
Failure gets its power from the emotions and interpretations we tie to it. When we lose, we assume we did something wrong, weren’t good enough, don’t have what it takes, and or will never be able to succeed. Those thoughts lead us to feeling angry, anxious, sad, and unmotivated.
However, the most successful people tend to look at perceived failure or losing differently. They view it as simply another one of life’s events, something to learn and grow from. They may have experienced a failure, but they do not view themselves as a failure. They can separate themselves from the perceived loss. For example, they may think “I lost a match,” versus “I am a loser.” When failure is looked at through this lens, it becomes less personal. With that extra distance comes an opportunity to look at what went wrong, what went right, and how you could have done things differently to have gotten the result you desired.
Seeing failure as an opportunity to grow is an important life skill. The earlier we learn how to do it the better. Labeling failures as learning experiences can change the way we think about the past and help us be more optimistic and engaged in the future.
The next time you experience a setback ask yourself the following questions:
1.) What you can learn from this perceived failure? What could you have done differently to get a different outcome? How can you grow as a result of this experience?
2.) What did you win this time around? Sometimes the win is simply attempting a new challenge or putting yourself out there in a different way. Usually, you can find at least one positive, even in the midst of failure. Keep the small victories in mind as you move forward.
3.) What did this experience teach you about yourself and you handle disappointment? How do certain thoughts and behaviors help you? How do they hurt you? Learning to take setbacks in stride and learn from them boosts confidence. Remember, a “setback” doesn’t have to define you.
Read any biography on a great athlete and you’ll surely encounter a chapter or two or three or four on their setbacks and failures. However, you’ll also find that using their setbacks as learning opportunities helped fuel their desire to succeed and pursue their goals. They took their setbacks in stride - although it couldn’t have been easy - and often note that they wouldn’t have achieved so much had they not gone through a dark time. The dark times can lift us up just as much as the good times if we’re open to it. Sometimes that “failure” is exactly what you need to take yourself to the next level.
Be clear about your goals and create an action plan to get there.
Remember, big journeys begin with a single step. Take one today.