I love failure! Some of my best results have come from brilliant ideas that didn't work out as originally planned. One such idea was to host ladies parties which included a therapeutic angle. I printed leaflets and paid for promotional advertising in local magazines and newspapers. The adverts failed inasmuch as they didn't really generate much business, but led to my being given agony aunt columns and regular editorial pieces, several of which I've maintained to this day.
When clients come with tales of hurt and disappointment I sometimes ask what they have learned from their experiences. Initially their reply may be not to trust people again or to avoid putting themselves in new situations, but gradually through their therapy, they start to appreciate that failure, something not working out well, has taught them resilience and the ability to look for other options. They learn to understand how they've survived and grown as a consequence of being challenged in this way.
It's important to not always play safe. By accepting opportunities to build new relationships, try new skills, risk failure or rejection and move out of your comfort zone you allow yourself to experience growth whilst adding value to your life.
Let's consider some positive ways to approach failure, have a different perspective on setbacks and so begin to thrive:
- One way is to adopt a positive approach to new situations and relish saying 'yes' to (appropriate) invitations and requests. Even if something is not quite to your taste and you'd never choose to repeat the experience, you can still respect yourself for having had a go. Some people may regard these intermittent opportunities as a waste of their time, whilst others may view them more positively, as an effective way to meet new people, make different connections, expand their horizons and possibly even end up with an amusing story or two in their repertoire.
- Reflect on the potential of setbacks and failure. Is everything completely lost? Be receptive to alternative options and different ways that a situation may be retrievable. Take a step back and consider what ground you've already covered. Your master plan may be to travel from A to B and a setback may require a diversion en route. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey, appreciate the scenery and relish doing things that are new and unexpected along the way.
- When you step out of your comfort zone you can learn new skills. I never thought I'd write an article that would get published, let alone two books, or become a regular contributor on the BBC. My diversions have now become a passion, almost another career. Plus I know that my writing has improved as a consequence of all the practice I'm getting which in turn has improved my confidence in many areas. You may find that an interesting sideline opens up unexpected opportunities for you too.
- Saying 'yes' to new things doesn't always have to entail massive upheaval or great expense and inconvenience. Something as 'simple' as trying a different class at the gym, ordering something new for lunch, inviting someone out for a coffee, travelling another route to work can bring important shifts in your mindset.
I've had clients who've been so proud of themselves when they've done something they'd have previously avoided, when they've perhaps made a difficult phone call or done a job that they'd usually have let their partner undertake. Give yourself credit when you do make that effort. Tell yourself 'well done'. You've earned it.
- Let others help you too. If you're not sure how to start, whether you have the confidence or feel you lack the ability, ask for their input and allow others to give you some support. Help might come in the form of therapy, coaching, enlisting a personal trainer or even by involving a friend or partner, but allow other people to fill in the gaps and provide you with encouragement along the way. People are often honoured to be asked to help someone who's trying to improve themselves; it makes them feel valued and part of your team.
Consider how you'd feel in years to come if you stayed safe in your comfort zone. If you have lots of stress in your life a comfort zone can be an important place to reside for a time, but even then simmering resentments and disappointment about 'if only' can fester. Treat failure as a stepping stone on your journey and appreciate that those small steps can take you somewhere new, exciting and bring a sense of pride and feeling alive into your life.