So, how in the heck can you fail in good spirits?
1. First, you have to identify what the good spirits are that you want. What do good spirits look like and most importantly FEEL like for you?
- Is there a sense of hope?
- A feeling of ‘this too shall pass’?
- A smile that you can put on your face – and in fact, that smile reflects what is inside?
- Do you have a core belief that whatever the failure was…you needed to learn the lesson from that failure – and you will strive to learn it so that this particular lesson doesn’t come around again?
- Do you have a tiny voice that reminds you, ‘Honey, this is only a moment; it’s not the rest of your life’? (as Julianna Margulies’ mother taught her).
- Do you know, really know, that you will survive the failures just like you have survived the successes? If you’ve made it this far, you will.
2. The second aspect of failing in good spirits is to notice the words around failure - the words in your own head, those coming out of your own mouth, as well as the words of those around you – words that are not only directed to you but to others. As S.I. Hayakawa encouraged us to do:
Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, “I have failed three times,” and what happens when he says, “I am a failure.”
There is a huge difference between noting and documenting our failures (and then moving on!!) vs. saying or believing that we are a failure.
Why don’t we take it away from ourselves for a minute? Within the last couple of years, many parts of our economy have experienced failures. The mortgage industry is not a failure, although part of it has failed. The banking system is not a failure, although portions of it have failed. My first marriage bit the dust – but I sure learned from it. My second marriage, which has lasted over 21 years, is far from perfect and it has failures embedded within it… But so far, we proceed with hope and a sense that it is worth it. I have had jobs where I was a wild success from others’ vantage points – but anyone who thinks there weren’t dreadful failures mixed in with the successes – and in some cases leading to the successes – just needs to ask me about that – but only if you have a lot of time!
Once you start to notice the words that you – and those around you – are using related to failure – you can begin to make changes if those changes are warranted. If you are reading this and you either have children or who work with young people…please, please help them with this.
Don’t pretend failures didn’t happen. They did and they will. Reframe the failure as one step toward success – or one learning tool – or one of life’s lessons – or as a message about what not to do the next time – but always around learning from the failures, mistakes, errors, or whatever else you want to call them. Robert Allen would encourage us to view failure as feedback. He says,
There is no failure. Only feedback. — Robert Allen
So, reframe your view of failure (which I’m OK with using as a term, sorry, Robert) as part of the process of life – and one of the ways that we get to practice continuing our good spirits.
3. Thirdly, what is under your control – and what isn’t? Which parts of your success and your failure are under your control? Take a peek at your successes and failures and determine which ones – and how much of those – were within your control or at least within your area of influence.
So, if you need to implement these tips so that you can ‘fail in good spirits,’ please do so. It will make a significant difference for you – and for those around you.
And if you are well aware that you – or those around you – are freaked-out to one degree or another and you can see that it is taking a toll, then you’re invited to join the Staying Positive Society where you can access tools for yourself or your team. You can access it at Staying Positive in a Freaked-Out World.