Everyone has heard somebody mention the lessons they’ve learned from failing. Even in a galaxy far, far away, the infinitely wise Jedi Master Yoda said, (paraphrasing here) failure is our greatest teacher. And while this is all true, not everyone knows exactly how to succeed by failing. And it has a lot to do with a tricksy little bit of every person’s psyche called pride and ego.
We’ve all failed at something, which means we are all well aware that some of the most painful moments we’ve experienced in our lives come from when we fail. If it’s something we care about, then the pain is even worse.
Whether it was winning a competition you’d been training for, succeeding in a business venture that used a ton of resources, getting an A in that one class you knew you could ace, feeling awkward after a social interaction with a crush, or finishing a major work task by a hard deadline, failing to live up to expectations or goals that we set for ourselves is always a sucky feeling. Just ask Dr. Dixon!
The Death of Gide
Recently, our co-founder, the wonderfully multifaceted Dr. Brian Dixon, decided to shut down an app (called Gide) that he co-founded. Gide offered mental health clinicians an extremely customizable way to find the best referrals that fit their niche. While it worked great, Dr. Dixon and his fellow cofounder realized that they just didn’t have the time, energy, and resources required to continue to grow and develop Gide. And so they shut it down.
With a huge passion for mental health and empowering clinicians, Dr. Dixon (who’s a psychiatrist after all!) certainly felt the pain associated with this failure to develop the best app ever. Yet, by framing this failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all able to learn from it.
Start with the right mindset
Even though failure can be painful, our growth and development really do require it – specifically if we grasp that missing piece to actually learn from it. This lacuna is the process of bypassing pride and ego in favor of a growth mindset. Ego and pride cause us to fear (rejection, embarrassment, losing, etc.), and fear cripples us from experience and growth.
It really begins with just possessing the desire to actually learn from failure. By adopting a growth mindset, you are committing to embrace challenges and persevere through the full spectrum of the journey (successes and failures both).
We humans are fairly malleable creatures. We all have the potential to learn, change, grow, adapt, and develop. Adopting a growth mindset means believing that skill and intelligence are able to be developed within you, regardless of the inherent traits and qualities that make us each unique.
Contrastingly, a fixed mindset ascribes to the notion that our skills and intelligence are not able to be developed through practice, failure, and strategy. Without the perspective to accept failure as a way to open doors of deeper understanding and growth, a fixed mindset leads only to stagnancy. You’ve gotta start with the right mindset for learning techniques to really work well.
Techniques that enable learning from failure
With a proper mindset that acknowledges and circumvents pride and ego, you can now invest some energy and effort into learning and growing from failure. First, consider what to do with your pride and ego now that you’ve bypassed it. The first options are to keep them out of the equation completely, or strengthening the ego so as to be less bruised.
Learning from failure does not mean that you always have to be the one experiencing the failing. Removing the ego can be accomplished by seeking what some deem “negative role models,” or people whose failures you’d like to avoid. By taking time to analyze their failure, you can learn from it without letting your own pride or ego get in the way.
Similarly, if you’re experiencing failure already, you can essentially do the same thing by adopting an objective viewpoint. Cognitive distancing allows you to really see the bigger picture and analyze why you failed through the perspective of a (fake) third party. This is especially helpful as it allows you to strengthen your ego and create a healthy habit of minimizing the effects of pride in your own life.
To better facilitate this strengthening, after allowing yourself to take an objective viewpoint, taking a step to own your failure and its repercussions is important. From this place, you can share what you have learned, and advise others to not do the same things you did. Not only will this help you take your lesson deeper, but it will also provide a “negative role model” (in this case, it’s you) for the other person. Accountability and transparency sustain growth.
Furthermore, from an unbiased view, you are able to look at the bigger picture and reassess the practicality of your initial goal as well as your own knowledge and abilities. This is where differentiating between growth mindset and fixed mindset comes to life. Taking this step back is a great way to see what abilities and intelligence you are still growing into.
One last technique brings us full circle back to the growth mindset approach. Adopting the habit of cognitive reappraisal takes all of these other habits and pushes through to establishing the failure you’re experiencing as an opportunity for growth.
Instead of striving towards one specific goal or success you envisioned, adding in the goal of learning and growing – regardless of the outcome – is how we evolve through experience. Proactively reframing your ambitions sets you up for success, even through failure. And that’s how you can learn to increase your skills, abilities, and intelligence!
Best lessons to learn from failure
After refreshing your viewpoint and adapting strategies to allow growth from failure, what is the outcome? What lessons can you actually learn from failure? The opportunities are literally endless, but here are a few genres or categories of some of the best lessons to learn from failure.
As we mentioned earlier, failure is often painful. It comes with a whole range of emotions, and simply allowing yourself to experience this spectrum carries with it an important lesson on emotional intelligence. By feeling these emotions, really seeking to understand where they come from and why, you are better suited to practice improved self-awareness.
For example, mourning the loss of a failed business or app build might help you identify and cope with mourning the loss of a loved one in the future. Emotions are complicated, nuanced, transient. Familiarizing yourself with them when they come will aid you to process through them the next time they come. This is how you grow in self-love and acceptance.
Another lesson to learn involves empathy. Once you are capable and equipped with greater emotional intelligence, you can more authentically support and advocate for others when they’re going through similar experiences. Empathy empowers you to champion others and offer them greater support when they’re going through failure (which helps you all learn more practical things to NOT do via establishing another “negative role model”).
Empathy and emotional intelligence really build off each other. Understanding how others feel also helps you to identify and process your own emotions. Failure offers many avenues for this type of growth to happen and lessons to be learned. So don’t push those emotions away!
Failure also offers a lesson in resilience. Everyone experiences hardships in their lives, and the sentiment that “you can do hard things” is not false. Rarely do we need a reminder of this truth, though. However, journeying through the full struggle of failure offers a practical and efficient way to remind yourself that you are capable of traversing difficult experiences and living to tell the tale. Sometimes we need that lesson to push us to dream bigger!
One last lesson to learn from failure is the opposite of what was mentioned several times previously as the big barrier that gets in the way of learning and growing from failure. This is the hurdle of pride and ego. And that makes this lesson all about humility.
Failure requires an acknowledgement of not meeting expectations, whether set by yourself, your boss, your therapist, your coach, your friend, etc. Taking ownership of your failure and identifying it as your own (though be sure to not mistake failure as being all that you are) is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. But accepting this reality will cultivate humility in yourself.
This lack of vanity and pride is key in building relationships and trust, both in personal and professional settings. Humility is also exponential in helping you identify your own strengths and skills. Thus, goal-setting and realistic expectations are that much easier to set next time. Applying the lessons you’ve learned from failing to your next venture is how you grow towards success.
Failure produces success
All-in-all, failure is never quite easy or comfortable. However, failure really is the greatest teacher we all know. It is part of the human experience. Without it, none of the strides in our evolving world would have been possible. To be well acquainted with failure is to be a human set on the path of growth, wisdom, and quality improvement.
By adapting a growth mindset and applying practical, proactive strategies and techniques, you will always set yourself up to learn a new lesson every time you fail. And through these experiences (remember, everybody fails sometimes, and we’re probably all gonna do it again in our lives) you can consistently succeed by failing.
If you’re struggling to start, build, grow, scale, or maintain your private practice, Simply Psych is here to help! We have taken time to learn from failures and create tried and true proven practices to offer the best practice management solutions to mental health clinicians. Whether you’re seeking business coaching or practice management services, we’re happy to help! Connect with us at www.simplypsych.com, and we’ll help you build the private practice of your dreams!