How to Use Failure as a Motivator

Every businessperson, executive and athlete has failed at some point in their lives

How to Use Failure as a Motivator

Every businessperson, executive and athlete has failed at some point in their lives. Failure is part of growth – often, it’s the first step toward success. However, most people are afraid of failure. Some people are so cripplingly afraid of failure that it stops them from achieving their dreams: 33 per cent of Americans say that fear of failure holds them back according to a 2018 survey from Small Biz Trends.

Part of this is psychological – when things get tough, the easiest thing to do is to give up. The most important thing you can do when confronted by failure, however, is to keep trying. How can you re-frame your failures and use them as motivators? From growth mindsets to getting back in the game, we’ve broken it down below.

Don’t be Afraid of Perception

Failure is as much a blow for the ego as it is a blow for your career. In a recent article for Forbes, Mindvalley executive KarFei Cheah says it’s not about what the failure is, but how you react to it that makes all the difference. Cheah says, “Business leaders always fear being judged or looked down on if they fail at something. But teams and people are more accepting if the business leaders embrace the failure instead of diverting the failure away. So, acknowledge, embrace and celebrate it. Then get back to work.”

Lose the ‘Bad Beat’ Mindset

Poker and business are very similar – instead of playing the proverbial hand you’re dealt, most of the time, it’s a game of wits. You play your opponents just as much as you play the cards, and sometimes, that opponent is yourself.

What is the ‘bad beat’ mindset? In poker, a bad beat is a hand in which a player with statistically strong cards loses to an opponent who statistically is unlikely to win but gets a lucky card and ends up winning the game. The loser is said to have been given a ‘bad beat’.

The ‘bad beat’ mindset is negative. It makes you feel like your life is out of your hands, no matter what you do. In the words of poker great Lee Jones, writing for Global Poker, “after you’ve heard the first half-dozen, [bad beat stories] are all the same. You learn nothing from them, and they don’t provide any consolation to the teller. They’re a great waste of time and create negative energy.”

A bad beat hand is just like a business idea that went south, or a client that you pitched for that chose another provider. The long and short of it? Lose the ‘woe is me’ attitude, because it’s not helping.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

For the experts at , success is linked to a growth mindset. But what is a growth mindset, and how can you cultivate it? In a recent article, Psychology Today defines a growth mindset as “…simply the belief that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and hard work. It’s not so much that this belief is some kind of magic. It’s just that without a growth mindset, we don’t exert the required effort and so we remain perpetually stuck.”

The article recommends cultivating this mindset by:

  • Acknowledging and embracing imperfections: No one is perfect, and it’s our imperfections that make us unique.
  • Paying careful attention to words and thoughts: If you have a negative thought, think to yourself – would I say this to a friend? If the answer is ‘no’, you’ll need to have a hard think about your internal monologue. Positive thoughts beget positive outcomes.
  • Prioritizing authenticity: Prioritizing who you really are – rather than who you want to be – is one of the core tenants of authenticity. Once you’re honest about who you are, you’ll be more driven to pursue the things that really matter to you.
  • Valuing the process over results: The old adage rings true – it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey.

Don’t Give Up

The most recognizable sports stars and businesspeople didn’t have careers that were smooth sailing. Ask anyone around you – their lives, both professional and personal, have involved failure.

The defining moment for those athletes and businesspeople? When they failed and got back up again. Need more convincing? Michael Jordan, arguably the most successful basketball player of all time, puts it eloquently for GoalCast: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

You’ve never truly failed until you stop trying. Dust yourself off and get back out there.

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