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Five Steps for Failing Forward


failing forward

Sometimes failing short of your goal,

or even missing entirely,

is the first step toward success.


It’s normal for uncomfortable feelings such as shame and self-doubt to arise when projects, jobs or relationships fail.  Resisting the urge to hide from or even deny these inevitable feelings and instead finding the courage to embrace them can help you to grow as a person, making you less judgmental of yourself and others.  And when you appreciate the legitimate risks required for success- and the associated ups and downs- you can make savvier choices.  Joelle Hann of Yoga Journal says, “Here are five steps to help ready you for that next time”:

If at first you don’t succeed…

  1. Sit with the misery

In the immediate aftermath of failure, you might feel compelled to do something, anything, to ease you feelings of shame and discomfort, whether that’s taking quick, drastic steps to right the wrong or seizing up andretreating from the world.  Don’t do either.  “We don’t make our best decisions when we are reactive,” says Ashley Good, of Fail Forward.

Instead, take a few minutes, a few days, or longer and sit with the facts and discomfort until you start to see what transpired with more rationality than emotion.

  1. Decouple your ego from your action

After you reach a calmer state of mind, you will be able to see your action as the failure, not you.  This delineation helps bring clarity, acceptance and self-forgiveness, which can start to neutralize the sometimes-crippling shameassociated with failure.

  1. Ask for a recap

Tell your story to people you trust, and then ask them to repeat it back to you.  Simply hearing the circumstances reframed by another party can shed new light on the facts, helping you identify your blind spots.  Try to internalize these different perspectives in order to see yourself more generously and regain confidence.

  1. Keep Sharing

“The more you tell your story the less shame you attach to it,” says Good.  As you recap your experience, highlight the optimism gained from steps 1, 2 and 3.  You should be feeling stronger, and reframing the story with your new insight will work to crystallize what you’ve learned and help you formulate you next plan of action.

  1. Take risks

Set new expectations for what you are trying to achieve in your next undertaking, and then go for it!  Armed with insights and self-forgiveness, and confidence for by your last trial and error, you’re ready to withstand new challenges, learn from them, and innovate.  Remember, in order to succeed, you must risk failure.

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I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!