5 Steps to Overcome Failure

coaching Feb 12, 2020

This is quite an important topic and it’s one that I cover and talk about a lot, because in my time as a teacher working with students and working with clients, it is one of the biggest things that come up. Anyone who knows me, will have heard me say at least once, that failure is feedback; mistakes are feedback. So what I want to do is cover what I think are the five steps, at least five key steps that you can take to help you overcome failure and the first one is your mindset.


How you view mistakes is really important.

The biggest difference between those who succeed and those who fail is how they deal with it. 

In fact, most successful people fail more often because they know that failure is just part of the process on route to success. I think about failure and success as two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. So when you fail at something, remember that it’s just part of the journey towards succeeding and when you succeed, remember it’s part of the journey towards another failure, towards another success and so forth. How we overcome failure is by understanding that all it is, is just feedback.

When we go into any venture, project or anything that we’re doing, we must understand that there will always be ups and downs. There will always be duality in our experience and so our mindset around it, is to recognize it as part of the process rather than seeing it as a downfall. It’s really just all feedback. So how you think about failure is a really key and important factor, so look at how you think about it and try on my view. It is just feedback on what’s not working what might need to change and how you can do differently next time.

Let Go Of Self-judgement

The second step would be to let go of any self-judgment. The truth is, you will fail not all the time, but some of the time and when you do it doesn’t define your character or who you are as a person, unless you let it!  When you fail in fact, it implies that you’re taking action, that you’re possibly trying something new and these are in fact great character-building exercises. It is like one of those quotes that I love by Wayne Gretzky - “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.  So it is better that you take those shots and miss and miss again, until you’re finally able to understand the best way, the best angle, the best height; you get the point.

Let go of self-judgment. If you failed at something, it doesn’t mean that you are not capable, it just means that you didn’t do it in the way that would allow you to succeed. And when you let go of that self-judgment and labelling like ‘I’m a failure or I always make mistakes’ which by the way isn’t true unless you choose to believe them, then it frees you up to move past it. I encourage you to let go of the self-judgment that can come up around making mistakes or failing at something. There’s always an opportunity to make a better choice, remember that.

Celebrate The Effort Not The Result

The third step is that when you do succeed at something, you want to celebrate the effort that you’ve put into doing it and not the result. I’ll repeat that, you want to celebrate your effort and not the results and the reason that you want to do that is because remember the result is just an effect. It’s just the reaction of the efforts and the things that you’ve done to get there. What celebrating the effort does, is it trains your mind to create effortful behaviour towards achieving something. It encourages you to put the work in, to get through the struggles and get to the result you want.

When my son was a bit younger, I would stand at the side of a football pitch and he would be really excited and come up to me and say, ‘mum did you see that goal?’ My response was, 'absolutely! I saw all of those passes and all those things that you did that lead to the goal, and how awesome that you were able to see the play, in order to get that goal!’ So, when he approaches the next goal (literally and figuratively), he’s really thinking about his effort and his choices on route to it because that is we how can refine things so that we catch those mistakes, or we avoid some of them. So it’s okay when you don’t get the results because remember that will sometimes happen. Just remember to celebrate the effort not the result. 

Reflect Objectively

Step four is to reflect objectively. Objectively is the key word - what has worked for you and what didn’t. It’s really important in this particular step that you step outside the emotion of it.  Sometimes when we fail or we mess up, we feel disappointed or upset and we start blaming ourselves for things. It ok to feel things, but we do not want o make decisions from an emotional state because we are not our most objective then.  So, when you’re in that cycle of emotion, it is very difficult to be objective in how you reflect about something.  

What is important here, is to step outside of that emotion. You can ask yourself something along the lines of, ‘what would I encourage my best friend to do in this situation?’ What this question does is it helps you to step outside of yourself and reframe it so that you’re seeing it from an outside perspective. What is something that you would get a best friend to do because then it’s not about the emotion or the shame. It’s not about the disappointment, but how you can help someone else which often leads to how you can help yourself. Take your time and then reflect objectively.

Connect To Your WHY

Step five is to connect with your why. What is the big WHY behind the thing that you’re wanting to achieve? When you connect to your WHY, it helps to motivate you, it helps to encourage you to keep going and it helps to encourage resilience, and this is really important when we have failures. Especially when we consider them big failures, because the only way to get to the other side of it, is to go through it because  we can’t avoid mistakes, but what we can do is to connect with the reason, the big WHY behind what it is we are wanting to do and then start again. 

Here’s a summary of those five steps to help you overcome failure:

  1. You want to look at your mindset.
  2. Let go of any self-judgement.
  3. Make sure that you celebrate the effort not the result.
  4. Reflect objectively so that you can move forward in a better way.
  5. Connect to your WHY, so that you can stay connected with the reason you’re doing it in the first place and then…start again.

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