Fail More, Learn More

Failure can be your best teacher, but nobody likes to fail. How can we resolve these two things so that you can learn from your failures without feeling like one?

Consider using different language to reframe your failures as learning opportunities. With my coaching clients, we call this the Learning/Action Model. Each week, a client commits to actions based on our learning during a coaching session. Whether these actions go really well or really poorly, we spend time at the start of our next session learning what we can from their experiences so that we can build on that learning. Our natural tendency when something doesn’t work is to abandon the idea/tool/process completely to try something new. But what if you could make a more informed choice about your next steps?

The trick here is entirely in HOW you reflect on your successes and your failures. Keeping in mind that the goal is to learn, take self judgement out of your evaluation by imagining that you are a curious, neutral observer of the events you are describing. Treat yourself like a field researcher – your job is to make neutral observations and collect data so that you can learn something new about the topic at hand.

If you catch yourself stuck in “why can’t I just” or “I should be able to,” tell yourself the story again, but this time as the field researcher. Repeat this process until you are able to tell the story without any emotional or judgmental language. This is where the learning happens. Removing your own self judgement from the equation allows you see the situation objectively. Instead of emotional reactions, like “why can’t I just,” you might start to see some mechanical changes you can make to your routine or process.

From here, you simply repeat the process. Take action based on your new learning, then come back to observe again as the field researcher: What is working? What isn’t working? How can I build on my successes? What mechanically can I change to be more successful where I am struggling?
You see, failure isn’t really failure at all if you live by the Learning/Action Model. It’s simply an opportunity to observe yourself, learn, and adjust so that you can continue building upward.