Learning to Reframe Failure

It’s been my experience that a lot of people who did well in high school and university end up faltering later in life because they’re afraid to fail. I found, during high school especially, that doing what was expected – getting good grades and not acting out – was a way of avoiding confrontation. And while this education is something that has served me well over the years and I’m grateful that a great deal of my learning in school was driven by positive reinforcement, there is something missed if you’re not learning through failure.

In a recent podcast, Good Life Project host Jonathan Fields talks about how it’s important to let go of the fear of failure in order to do the things most important to us. It’s not that we should attempt things that have no chance to succeed, but that we shouldn’t think of failure as such as terrifying prospect that we don’t even start.

Fields notes that it’s important to reframe what it means to fail: “Instead of saying, ‘I’ll be judged and ostracized’ the different frame on that is, ‘If I fail, what an extraordinary opportunity for me to understand why I failed, understand how to do it better and then apply this new knowledge to the next iteration of my path.’”

While “Failure is not an option” was a snappy quote around the Apollo 13 mission, apparently the real quote was more along the lines of: “…when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them.” Contrary to the sort of thinking that cripples us, this reaction to bad situations is productive.

It’s not that be fail but how we fail that comes to define us.

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