There is no Failure Only Feedback

No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes.

William E Gladstone.

Sometimes as we work towards our goals, we will sometimes come up against dead ends or false turns. There may be times when we don’t get the results we want. The way we respond at these moments determines our future. What distinguishes high-achievers from the ‘almost-rans’ is not their success rate, but the way in which they view problems and setbacks. Instead of seeing setbacks as failure, high achievers see them as an opportunity to learn more and a chance for constructive feedback. In this way even a setback can take them closer to their goals.

When we truly hold this belief we can learn from everything that happens to us. Not only do we need to stop being afraid of failure, we need to learn to welcome setbacks and mistakes. This is sometimes called ‘failing forward’ – we make a mistake, listen to the feedback, correct, and keep moving forward toward the goal.

You can never learn less; you can only learn more. The reason I know so much is because I have made so many mistakes.

Buckminster Fuller

In terms of feedback, of course, we talk to and programme ourselves more than everybody else in our life combined. Some people have tapes that just play over and over in their heads. The tape plays from start to finish and then, as though in a continuous loop, starts over again. If that internal dialogue – self-programming internal dialogue – is negative we will inevitably end up with a poor performance.

If your internal dialogue contains negative self-talk you are creating barriers for yourself that you don’t need. Some of the most common negative statements people make include:

  • I’m not smart enough.
  • Other people are much more interesting/well-informed than I am.
  • I’m not as good as the rest of these people.
  • I cannot succeed.
  • I can’t do it.
  • I never finish anything.
  • It doesn’t matter what I do, it won’t make any difference.
  • I’m just going through the motions, nothing ever changes.
  • They’ll find out how stupid I really am.
  • I’m a woman and they won’t listen to a woman.
  • I’m too young to do this.
  • I’m too old to do this.

These negative tapes have a lot of power – they can stop you going forward and making changes in your life. At best they will slow you down and make the journey much more difficult than it needs to be.

Identify the negative tapes you run in your own head. Make a list in your journal of your top ten negative tapes. If you are not sure exactly what you say to yourself, you might need to carry your journal around with you for a couple of days. Try to be aware of what you are saying to yourself and when you catch yourself in negative self-talk jot down what you are thinking. You might be surprised at how often this negative talk slips in.

Once you have identified your negative self-talk, you can begin practising replacing it with new talk. Go through your negative statements and replace each one with a positive alternative. For instance, if one of your negative statements ‘I’m not as interesting as other people’, replace it with ‘I’m interesting and have a lot to offer other people’. When you catch yourself saying one of your negative statements to yourself, immediately stop and replace it with the positive statement. This will take practice, but it is worth persisting with it. Over time, you will find that you are using negative self-talk much less frequently; instead, most of your internal dialogue will be positive and encouraging.