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Optimizing Failure

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"In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail." -- Kirk Douglas

Nobody sets out to fail, but reality remains -- we're going to experience failure. How many times have you climbed the mountain just to find out that you were climbing the wrong mountain?

It's not just the optimist in me that believes that failure leads to success, it's the realist. People are sometimes so terrified to fail that they never go for their big dreams. Stop for a moment and think about a time in your life when you failed at something important to you. Chances are, besides the bruised ego and emotional impact that failing may have had on you, you came out of it a stronger, more resilient and determined individual.

The most important skill to learn is to not let failure stop you from trying again. Failing is scary because it's an unknown. The actual feeling of failure is not unknown because at some point we have all failed at something. The good news is we're still here. Failure only breaks us if we let it. You can fall apart without falling to pieces, and know that you're going to be okay. The sun will still come up in the morning.

Success from failure is having the wisdom and ability to ask yourself two things:

  1. What happened?
  2. What did I learn?

With answers to those important questions, now, you can move on. Once you embrace the idea that without failure you cannot grow, you cannot course-correct, you cannot take the next step toward your vision, you will be able to manifest success at an even deeper level. Failing is the easy part -- it's how you handle failure that will either stop you or allow you to move forward in your life, your career and your relationships.

Some of the world's most fascinating and successful visionaries have overcome failure in order to succeed. Where would we be without the lightbulb, flight or the assembly line? Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Henry Ford are just a few of the many innovators of all time that overcame adversity and failure. It's inspiring for me to know that Walt Disney, Elvis and Vincent van Gogh had an unwavering commitment to not give up on their dreams even after failure.

Here are five ways to look on the bright side of our failures so that we can be more generous with ourselves and open to our success:

  1. Accept your failures. Don't hide from them; face them straight on without blame or shame -- whether it was a missed opportunity, a bad decision, a bad idea or a combination of all three. Understand that no one is perfect.
  2. Be realistic with your expectations. Did you set yourself up for failure? Were your expectations of your results too high to begin with and you never gave yourself a fair chance? Things like going on a first date and not getting a marriage proposal, or expecting to lose 30 pounds in 30 days without cutting calories. Identify where you sabotage your success right out of the gate.
  3. Acknowledge yourself for trying. Not that failure is something you may be proud of, but give yourself credit for trying in the first place. Be kind to yourself, you're not the enemy.
  4. Put the pause button on. Before you beat yourself up about it, be proud and acknowledge that it was a learning experience, and without knowledge we cannot grow. Be grateful to your failure because of its opportunity.
  5. Time to move on. Get excited about the possibilities ahead for you. Not to be cliché, but it's no coincidence that the phrase was coined "with every closed door, a new door opens." It's true, but you need to believe it and let go of the past.

You can achieve more success in your life when you make space for your failure(s). We're taught at a young age that failure will define us. Only you can allow it to define you. Letting failure define you is a personal belief, and your beliefs can be changed when you choose to change them. If you turn toward your failure in an attempt to understand it and thank it for its wisdom, your life will be richer, deeper and more fulfilling.

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