Since a life without failure doesn’t exist, the key is to manage our reactions to it. Here are five things we can do to start developing a relationship with failure:
1) Seek the difficult
Just like avoiding people we don’t like, our brains avoid difficult things. This is where our brain can limit us.
We can break down the boundaries our brains have built up by doing things we haven’t done before. To do this, we have to take chances and seek difficult situations that we usually shy away from. Mentally tough people do just that. They challenge their mind on a consistent basis by doing things outside of their comfort zone.
Start by making a list of the things you don’t like to do, especially focus on the things that are good for you. Start today by doing one thing from that list.
Every time we do something outside of our comfort zone we get stronger. With each difficult task faced, your internal dialogue will begin to shift to seek challenge, not comfort.
2) Take inventory
Make a list of your insecurities; what you fear most, your self-doubts and negative or unhelpful thought patterns. These feelings surface when we do things outside our comfort zone. Our default setting is to focus on the things we fear. It’s our brains “stop sign”, telling us to watch out for possible pain ahead. But now that we know what we’re up against we can do something about it.
Now identify the following:
What are your strengths?
What are the things that make you successful?
What do you need to focus on instead?
An unprepared mind leads to an undisciplined one. Under the stress of performance our minds fall back on the path of least resistance—which is typically to stop whatever we are doing to avoid the risk of failure. But not this time because you’ll be prepared to face your insecurities, defeat that knee-jerk reaction, and make the choice that falls in line with your goals not your brains comfort zone.
3) Rehearse the act
Visualize the moments you fear. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. This is why we cry during a sad commercial or our heart races when we watch an action-packed movie. We can use visualization to see ourselves having success, taking action through fear, and also to see ourselves fail and rehearse our response to it.
For example: If you’re prepping for an interview and you practice everyday leading up to it, once the interview comes you feel confident going into it, rather than fearful.
Instead of facing a fear for the first time, go into a situation having experienced it in your mind several times. Visualization gives us the mental practice we need to become a regular instead of a first-timer.
4) “Slow down” control freak! (it takes one to know one)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing all our efforts on the things outside of our control. For example, we get mad because the referee made the wrong call, because you didn’t get the job you wanted, someone stole your idea, or the weather was bad. When we give effort to the things we can’t change, our effort is wasted. When we give effort to the things we can, our effort is effective.
Make a list of the things outside your control and the things within your control. Then let go of the things you can’t control and commit to the things you can.
5) Perform an autopsy
Don’t ignore your gains even through your losses. Failure is the ultimate form of feedback. Failure clears the path for what works by showing us what doesn’t.
After every performance ask yourself these questions:
What did you do well?
What can you do better?
What did you learn from this experience?
Uncertainty becomes certainty through action. We either become certain that something worked or we gain the knowledge of what didn’t work. The process is beneficial regardless of the outcome because good or bad we can always get better.
Fear lives in the future and failure lives in the past. Focus your efforts in the present and what you can do today to become better. Make an impact to your performance by implementing these five actions. Take control of your fear and make friends with failure.
Lauren Abarca's career trajectory is dynamic and strongly focused on pushing the limits of high mental performance. Lauren is an experienced soccer player who competed for the University of San Francisco and Point Loma Nazarene University. In this time she completed her B.A. in Kinesiology with a Minor in Psychology. As a former collegiate athlete Lauren acquired a passion for improving sports performance through mental strengthening. Lauren went on to receive her Master's in Performance Psychology from National University. Now, Lauren is continuing her passion for improving performance by working with elite level athletes including professional and Olympic and holds the title of Mental Conditioning Coordinator with the New York Yankees.