The first step in reframing failure is to look for the opportunity within it. What does failure tell us about our work, ourselves and those we are working with? If we are looking for opportunities to continuously learn we will discover aspects of what doesn’t work in all of our failures that. Instead of looking at setbacks strictly as failures, consider thinking of them as an experiment that gives us valuable information which we can draw upon in order to move forward.
In addition to viewing failure as an experiment, we can view failure as a transition time or period that we are required to go through. Thinking of failure as part of the process normalizes the experience and makes it an expectation. It can also be looked at as a time to build new skills and make connections with colleagues and leaders at your workplace.
Another way to reframe failure is to highlight the importance of trying new things. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. Having tried and failed means we had the courage to try something new. Since there are few, if any, new endeavours that guarantee success, we must step out of our comfort zones and build our resilience. We get more and more resilient each time we try something new, regardless of whether it works out. We are expanding our capacity to tolerate discomfort, which causes our comfort zone to get bigger.
If we need motivation to keep going after setbacks, we simply have to think of all the well-known people and the setbacks that they endured before finally reaching their goal. Research has found that organizations that encourage and reward new ideas, innovation and risk taking, attract those who are willing to go beyond what they already know and do, perform better. Workers at stagnant organizations that are tied to the status quo, often grow to feel frustrated, causing many to come to the conclusion that they are in the wrong environment.
Another way we can view failure is as a step towards developing our creative, problem-solving skills. By examining what didn’t work, we can expand our imaginations and thinking processes. For example, optimists view setbacks differently from pessimists. Optimists see setbacks as temporary, and don’t take them personally. They don’t see them as an indication there is something wrong with them. Viewing failures in this manner can help build our optimism.
And lastly, we can reframe failure as a way to better understand ourselves. Developing our emotional intelligence, in particular the competencies of Self-Awareness and Self-Management enable us to build our resilience, our ability to ‘bounce back’ and our ability to reframe setbacks to learning opportunities. By taking stock of our accomplishments, and our setbacks, we can better understand ourselves, our skills and our growth ahead.