Failure can be a great teacher. With my athletes, I don’t like to use the terms “winners vs. losers.” Instead, I say “winners vs. learners.” If you lose the match or flunk your exam or fail to achieve your sales goals, there is always a learning opportunity to be had. The challenge is in recognizing the teachable moment at the heart of the disappointment.
To help you out, here are six powerful lessons that can be learned with many a mistake, stumble, or fall:
- Embrace your responsibility.One instinctive reaction to a slipup is to shift blame elsewhere. It’s so easy to say, “It’s not my fault.” But it’s often more empowering to look for our role in the mistake. Only by investigating our part in things can we start to see what we can do differently next time. Your fault breeds your solution.
- Get Grit.Whatever the obstacle or failure is—whether you let you team down or made a mistake in your personal life—finding the inner grit to get up and get back in the game is crucial. In the Japanese warrior vernacular this is called FudoShin—Immovable Mind.
- Gather Information.When we experience failure, we get valuable feedback about which of our efforts are not working. One way to gain maximum benefit from mistakes is to examine them through the filter of powerful questions: “How can I use this experience?” “What will I do differently next time?” “How am I likely to grow from this?” Questions like these lead us from mistake to growth. Warriors call this Hansei—Introspection.
- Find Clarity.Figure out what you really want and what’s most meaningful to you. Mistakes wake us up and direct our attention like a flashing sign that says, “Fix this.” This sense of urgency can focus us in on what might be getting in the way of our goals. Working on possible solutions, redefining what we want or expect, or reexamining our values or goals can lead us to more clarity about our path. Mistakes tell us where to direct our attention.
- You are not your sport.Success or failure on the field does not solely define you; it is what you do, not who you are. Blowing a play doesn’t make you a bad person any more than crushing it makes you a great person. Chill out and don’t overblow the impact of your mistake.
- Inspire others.Making our private struggles public and sharing how we could or would have done things differently might influence others to make changes for the better. Your teammates respect how you come back, learn, and grow as an athlete.
Consider this: Once you’ve given yourself some time to recover from the emotional blow of a fresh failure, take a look at what went wrong and examine how you can make corrections moving forward.